Chapter 16
The funeral sector


16.1The funeral service industry has changed considerably over the past century. While 100 years ago it consisted of fairly limited services provided by an undertaker, these days, there are a myriad of services performed by a variety of people, including:

16.2In the context of this change, our terms of reference require us to consider the regulation of funeral directors—specifically whether the current system of self-regulation should be retained or an alternative system instituted.

16.3The regulatory obligations specific to funeral service providers are found across a variety of Acts and regulations, particularly the following:

16.4By far the most detailed provisions are found in the two sets of regulations. We have found that both sets of regulations are out of date and are no longer fit for purpose. In many respects, they are overly prescriptive, difficult to understand and of limited relevance.

16.5In addition to these provisions, which are specific to the funeral service industry, there are a number of legislative obligations in respect of dead bodies that apply to everyone, including funeral service providers. Specifically, it is an offence under the Crimes Act 1961 to improperly or indecently interfere with or offer an indignity to any dead human body or human remains, whether buried or not.273 The Burial and Cremation Act requires a person who has charge of a body to dispose of it within a reasonable time.274 That Act also makes it an offence to:

16.6In this part of the Report, we begin by describing the roles of the various participants in the funeral service industry, the statutory and regulatory obligations they are currently subject to and how those roles have changed and continue to change since that system of regulation was introduced. We then analyse whether that current system adequately protects against the risks and problems we found through our consultation. We conclude by proposing amendments to two aspects of the current regulatory system.

272The handling and transportation requirements are particularly concerned with preventing nuisances and dangers caused by decomposing bodies through leaking or communicable diseases.
273Crimes Act 1961, s 150.
274Burial and Cremation Act, s 46E.
275Section 54.
276Section 54AA.
277Section 55.