What is repatriation?
To Funeral Directors the term repatriation refers to the transportation of a loved one or a loved one’s cremated remains, either interstate or overseas. We at Heritage & Heritage Funerals pride ourselves on offering the best possible advice and assistance to families when it comes to repatriation.
The process of repatriation is complex. It requires the facilitation of a skilled Funeral Director with experience in this area. Your Funeral Director will prepare documentation and seek the appropriate written approvals from various Australian Government and international authorities on your behalf. They will also arrange for a suitably qualified person to perform the appropriate mortuary preparation of your loved one to satisfy international regulations for safe transportation of a deceased person.
If you are considering repatriating a loved one we would be happy to talk through your specific requirements to help you make the best possible decision for your family.
How long does it take to repatriate a deceased person overseas?
The average time frame for an international repatriation is anywhere between 1 to 3 weeks, however this is an average, not a guarantee. The time frame depends on multiple factors; Some families choose to have a local Funeral Service in the Melbourne area prior to repatriation taking place, some countries require certified translations of the legal documents into their official language, some countries have local Consulates that are frequently not open or on an annual holiday or located in a different State. All of these factors and many others can contribute to the length of time required for repatriation to take place.
Can I use the coffin that my loved one is transported in for the Funeral Service in the country of destination?
Yes, this is usually fine. Care is taken in the protection of the coffin during transport to prevent damage from occurring. While there are no 100% guarantees once a coffin leaves our care and is in the care of the airlines or the Funeral Director in the other country, it is rare for there to be even cosmetic damage to a coffin travelling from Australia. Alternatively, you may like to select an inexpensive “shipping coffin” here in Australia to give you the opportunity to select a coffin when you arrive in the other country. Please note that for coffins coming from overseas to Australia the above is not accurate. From overseas we more commonly see damage to coffins, particularly cosmetic damage such as scratches, chips or broken handles. This is due to the different methods utilised by some other countries in packaging their coffins in a protective manner. In these cases we generally wait for the coffin to arrive, then we have a discussion with you about its condition to assist you in making a decision.
How much does an international repatriation cost?
This is a similar question to “how much does an overseas trip cost?”. There are so many variables that ballpark figures are unhelpful in managing expectations. Without knowing the answers to many questions such as which country the person is being transported to, whether there will be a funeral service in Melbourne first, etc. it is difficult to give a figure. The best course of action is to talk to your Funeral Director and ask them for a personalised estimate. Your Funeral Director can obtain pricing from the airlines and Consulate to give you a reasonable idea on the different costs involved before you make any decisions.
Can I repatriate my loved one anywhere in the world?
The brief answer is no. Some countries will only grant permission for their own citizens to be repatriated, or other conditions of entry may apply. Each country has unique requirements and if any one of these requirements is not met we may not be granted permission to transport your loved one to that country. Additionally, some countries, due to political unrest, war or other difficult circumstances, may have an embargo imposed which impacts the safety and cost of repatriating your loved one to that country. In these circumstances we will usually choose to limit our liability by standing down from the repatriation.
What is embalming and does my loved one have to be embalmed?
For all international repatriations embalming by a qualified person is a requirement. Embalming a deceased person involves a combination of non-invasive and invasive procedures and includes the use of some chemicals. All mortuary care is provided with the utmost care and respect for the person and their family. The main purpose of embalming for repatriation is the sanitisation and preservation of the person’s body for transportation. On rare occasions a deceased person is an unsuitable candidate for embalming. In these cases we can discuss the possibility of an exception with certain conditions imposed, although permission from the authorities concerned is not guaranteed. Personal or family objections to embalming, including religious objections, will not be accommodated in the context of repatriation due to international regulations and our duty of care for the health and safety of all concerned.