Changes to burial and cremation laws

The Northern Territory Government will soon introduce the new Burial and Cremation Bill 2022 into Parliament.

The new legislation will replace:

Until the Bill passes, go to the Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet website and follow the current process for burials.

Why new laws are needed

Currently, cemeteries in regional and remote communities on Aboriginal land are not legally recognised.

This means burial records are not kept for these areas.

The new legislation will make sure that burials areas in communities can:

  • be legally recognised
  • have a record of burial sites.

New laws are needed so that people across the Northern Territory will have a record of where deceased loved ones are buried.

Having a record of burial sites will ensure those sites are respected and that future generations can have a connection to their family history.

What will change

The Bill will respect Aboriginal customs and traditions.

It will also:

  • require records be kept for all burials in the Northern Territory
  • allow burying in cemeteries, burial grounds and other areas
  • ensure those responsible for the land have power to decide whether cemeteries or burial grounds are recognised
    • this includes Traditional Owners of Aboriginal land
  • ensure a decision maker for the deceased can be a person with authority under Aboriginal customs and traditions
    • this is also known as a senior next of kin.

You can watch a video that explains the new Bill. Also watch in language.

Burial areas

Under the new legislation, there will be 2 types of burial areas:

  • cemeteries
  • burial grounds.

The difference between a cemetery and a burial ground is that a burial grounds don't have an organisation that looks after and manages the area.

Cemeteries

There will be 4 types of cemeteries, managed by the following organisations:

  • public cemeteries – urban cemeteries managed by local government councils
  • community cemeteries – regional and remote cemeteries managed by local government councils
  • local cemeteries – regional and remote cemeteries managed by Aboriginal corporations or other organisations
  • independent cemeteries – cemeteries managed by private organisations.

You must apply to the organisation for a burial to take place in the cemetery.

The organisation will keep records of all burials.

Burial grounds and other areas

People can bury outside of burial areas, such as out on country or near homelands.

There is no responsible organisation to manage a burial ground.

A representative nominated by the land owner can consent to burials in burial grounds.

Land owners can decide if the area becomes a:

  • cemetery or
  • burial ground.

They can also decide if it continues to be an undeclared area.

You must notify the department about a burial in a burial ground.

The department will keep records of all burials.

Burial notifications

Under the new legislation, you must notify the Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet if you are burying outside a cemetery.

A burial notification is not an approval process.

It allows burial records to be kept for the family and future generations and respects customary decision making.

You will need to provide the following details:

  • name of deceased person
  • confirmation of death
  • GPS coordinates or a map of the burial site.

If burial details are culturally sensitive, you don't need to provide those details.

You can get help with your burial notification.

Watch video

Consultation

The Department of the Chief Minister and Cabinet has consulted with key stakeholders on the drafting of the Bill.

After the passage of the Bill, the department will have further discussions with communities and those who make decisions for land to talk about:

  • where burial areas should be recognised
  • the names and types of burials areas
  • who should keep records for burial areas.

Communities and local organisations can make their own decisions about what areas should be recognised and how they are managed.

Contact

For further information email burials@nt.gov.au or call 08 8995 5107.


Last updated: 09 May 2022

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