When people come together around something that affects them deeply, and with focus and determination, a lot can be learned. What’s also great is that we can admit ignorance, listen closely to what others have to offer, and make new and sustainable connections with ideas and people.

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Natural burial night.

I need to consider this.

This was how it was at Kinship Ritual’s sustainable funerals event ‘Natural Burial’ at the Sustainable Living Festival. Many people really want natural burial as an option that’s less environmentally harmful than cremation. With natural burial the imagination comes into play, and often it’s a grave with a tree planted on top. For this event I wanted to enable a better understanding of what’s available in Melbourne and elsewhere.

Terry King from the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, presented what was essentially a preview of a new Memorial Park being developed by Southern Metropolitan Cemetery Trust called Bunurong. This kind of preview would be provided to funeral directors as a matter of course, but not to citizens. A 21 hectare area has been set aside for natural burial. Terry is Director of Infrastructure, and showed the design concept for 80 ‘burial under tree plots’.

Brendan o’Connor is a Regional Manager at the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (GMCT). He explored the dimensions of ‘natural’, ‘green’, ‘eco’ and ‘bushland’ burial, the notion of returning land back to its original state and of the conservation strategies that might be associated with ‘bushland’ burial. GMCT offers small natural burial areas in two cemeteries, Lilydale and Healesville. However Brendan highlighted that many of the GMCT’s cemeteries have great ‘natural settings’.

Pia Interlandi spent a rich period of her life helping with the early development of Clandon Wood, a natural burial preserve in the UK. Through the founders’ work, people find at Clandon Wood the aesthetic values that most people are looking for in a natural burial. The bare landscape has been transformed, with a wetland, wildflower meadows, an orchard and a light as air pavilion.

When I put the program together I did have a moment of doubt. How would an evening go with spokespeople from cemetery trusts that are to some extent in competition with each other, and a passionate advocate? It was a great night. I enjoyed the way in which everyone got together, the thoughtfulness of participants, and the recognition of values that drive the natural burial movement.

Sustainability values apparently drive natural burial. But aesthetics matter deeply. Beyond minimising impacts I observed people looking for a psycho-spiritual relationship with the place they might be laid to rest.

Great night. Helpful and clarifying
Great event. Thought provoking.
I look forward to putting on more. Perhaps exploring a social justice imperative? Some participants felt strongly that being obliged to subscribe to formulaic, costly and elaborate funerals does not respect or support many people’s economic and social needs. Interesting.