Is it Legal to Scatter Ashes at the Beach?

Have you ever wondered if you can scatter ashes in the ocean or the beach in Australia? The short answer is yes – but you will need permission to do so.
Is it Legal to Scatter Ashes at the Beach?

If your loved one was a lover of the ocean or the beach, then you may be considering scattering their ashes in the place that they loved most. In Australia, ashes can be scattered at both private and public beaches and oceans, however, state and territory laws do vary. To scatter ashes legally, you will need to seek permission from the local council or governing body beforehand. 

If you’re wondering how to safely and legally scatter your loved one's ashes at the beach or sea, we’ve put together this guide so you can plan your ceremony or trip accordingly.

Can I scatter ashes at sea in Australia?

If you’re looking to hop on a boat to scatter the ashes at sea, you will need permission from the master of the vessel or boat before scattering the ashes overboard. Some vessels are available to be chartered especially for this reason, but there are some important precautions to take that we will discuss below. 

Things to consider before scattering ashes at or near the sea

Obtain permission first

Scattering ashes may breach specific protection of the environmental provisions in each Australian state and territory as it can affect air or water pollution. Local councils or other government authorities may choose to provide you with a set time or place to scatter the ashes, or they may allow it under restricted conditions. However, keep in mind that approval is not necessarily required from the Public Health Unit in some states and territories – just be sure to double-check this with your local council.

Choose the location carefully

Your loved one may have just loved the ocean or beach in general, in which case, the specific location may not be an important factor for you. If, however, you have a specific spot in mind, it’s important to factor in how accessible this location is for future visits. For example, undeveloped land may later be developed, or you may see yourself relocating interstate or overseas in the future, so it’s important to factor these things in.

Consider the weather, the tide and the time of year

Before you contact the local council or relevant governing body, it’s a good idea to think about the perfect conditions for scattering your loved one’s ashes. A windy day or a rising tide could dampen the ceremony or special moment that you have planned, and breathing in ashes could even affect those with respiratory conditions like asthma if the wind blows into their breathing space. Consider a backup plan if the weather gets moody. 

Tips for scattering ashes at the sea

  • You may want to scatter the ashes alone, but you can also consider asking family or friends to attend. It’s completely up to you and your situation.
  • Depending on your religious or spiritual beliefs, there may be a special prayer that’s appropriate for scattering ashes at sea, or for mourning the deceased. Consider speaking to a religious or spiritual leader for guidance on this. Alternatively, you may want to prepare a few words to say before, during or after the scattering of the ashes, or speak from the heart when the timing feels right.
  • Loosening the lid before hopping onboard the vessel or boat will make it easier for you to seamlessly scatter the ashes when the moment arises.
  • Observe the direction of the wind, and scatter the ashes close to the water.
  • Do not throw the ashes container or urn into the sea. It is best to thoughtfully dispose of the container once you’re back on the shore.
  • The scattering of the ashes ceremony or trip doesn’t have to end there. You can consider visiting the specific location or planning a trip to the beach every year on the day to commemorate your loved one. In time, you may begin to see this commemoration day or death anniversary as a day of healing, or a celebration of life.

Wrap up

It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong place to scatter your loved one’s ashes; you should choose a place that holds meaning for you. When planning a scattering of the ashes ceremony or trip, be sure to obtain permission first from your local council, relevant governing body and/or the sea vessel or boat you will be travelling on.

Of course, there are plenty of other factors to consider, like the weather and the specific location where the ashes will be scattered. Once you’ve set a date and/or time with the council, you can follow our tips for scattering ashes at sea.

Remember that scattering your loved one’s ashes can be an emotional experience for many. Grief may be a universal human experience, but no two people’s grief is ever the same. Allow any or all emotions to rise to the surface, and make sure you allow yourself kindness and patience during this time, and always. 

If this guide has inspired you to think about your own resting place preferences, you can note your instructions in your legal Will.

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