Burial and Cremation Shrouds in Australia

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What is a Burial or Cremation Shroud?

A shroud is a length of cloth used to wrap a body in preparation for burial or cremation. They are usually made out of an organic material, such as:

  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Muslin
  • Bamboo
Burial Shroud and Trundle
Example of a burial shroud and trundle

Can You Be Buried in a Shroud in Australia?

In Australia, most states do not permit the use of burial shrouds. However, there are exceptions for Muslims (see below) and burials at natural burial sites.

The number of natural burial sites in Australia is growing rapidly with the increasing popularity of Green funerals. Green burial sites require the use of eco-friendly and biodegradable burial containers, such as wicker coffins, cardboard coffins and shrouds.

Can you be Cremated in a Shroud in Australia?

Generally, the use of shrouds for cremation is not permitted in Australia, however, it is possible to find some funeral directors who are able to offer this.

Most crematoriums do not allow delivery of the body in a shroud as it makes handling the body more difficult. This is reflected by the Australian Funeral Directors of Australia Guidelines which provide that for cremation purposes, containers must have a solid base made from wood (or other similar combustible material) to facilitate storage and handling of the body (i.e. between vehicles, and on roller trolleys).

While shrouds are a cheaper option for families compared to coffins, many funeral directors are able to offer cremation capsules, a simple and cost-effective cardboard box specifically designed for no service cremations. For more information on the cost of cremation capsules and coffins, see our complete Guide Coffin Prices in Australia.

Shrouds and Religion

For centuries, shrouds have formed an important part of the funeral rites for many cultures, including Islam, Judaism and Hinduism, many of which are still practiced by devotees in Australia.

Shrouds in Islam

While most states do not permit the use of shrouds for burial in cemeteries, they have exceptions for Muslims, as the tradition forms an important part of their faith.

Under Islam, the body is cleaned, perfumed and wrapped in a white cloth shroud, before it is placed directly into the dug grave on it’s right side facing the direction of Mecca.

Shrouds in Judaism

According to Jewish tradition, the body is dressed in a plain white shroud called a Tachrichim. While the garments are very respectable, they are also simple, allowing those who cannot afford expensive clothing a dignified send-off without fear if “embarrassment” in front of their peers.

As distinct from the Muslim use of shrouds, under Judaisim, the shroud serves as more of a garment rather than a burial container, and the body is still placed inside a coffin for burial.

Shrouds in Hinduism

In Hinduism, the bodies of the deceased are cremated on open funeral pyres. Women are typically prepared and cremated in an orange shroud, whereas men and widows are cremated in a white shroud. The shrouded bodies are then covered with flowers and burning incense.

As open funeral pyres are not permitted in Australia, Hindus are cremated the same was as those from other faiths.

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