Ask LH: How Deep Does A Grave Have To Be In Australia?

Hey Lifehacker, What is the law in Australia in regards to human burial? Is it really mandatory for it to be six feet under? And does it have to be in a cemetery? Thanks, Grave Digger

Grave site picture from Shutterstock

Dear DG,

While regulations differ from state to state, “six feet under” appears to be a slight exaggeration across the board. For example, human burial legislation in NSW requires the top of the coffin to be buried no less than 900 millimetres below the natural surface level of the soil. This works out to around three feet.

When you take the cask dimensions into account, you’re looking at an overall single-coffin depth of four to five feet. Presumably, this is considered deep enough to avoid remains being easily disturbed by people or animals; anything more is just needless digging.

With that said, there are plenty of circumstances where a coffin might be buried deeper than the law dictates. Some cemeteries bury their coffins vertically to save on space, resulting in deeper, narrower graves. Other cemeteries allow families to “stack” coffins so they can share a single tombstone. Naturally, this means the coffin at the bottom is buried much deeper than normal.

Human remains need to be interred in a public cemetery unless approval has been granted by a local government authority to bury the body privately. Permission must be granted prior to burial and all relevant health regulations need to be strictly adhered to. (For example, a body cannot be buried in a location that could potentially contaminate a supply of drinking water.)

Generally, you need a pretty good reason for a private burial application to be accepted. “I can’t be arsed visiting a cemetery” unfortunately isn’t good enough. If you’re keen to bury a dead relative in your backyard, cremation is probably the way to go.


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