About the Australian Natural Burial Project
What the Project is:
The Australian Natural Burial Project is the expression of an idea and a vision shared by the Contributors - a recognition of the opportunity that exists right now in Australia to promote a movement that links meaningful end-of-life rituals with positive environmental action.
The Australian Natural Burial Project consists entirely of this website, and the open source content it provides. It is both an academic work and a distillation of the knowledge and experience of the Contributors over the last decade.
While we continue to work on our own natural burial related projects (see details below), it is our hope that the Australian Natural Burial Project will attract and influence lay people, professionals, community groups and governments to make this vision a reality.
What the Project is not:
The Australian Natural Burial Project is not a membership based industry organisation or peak body of any kind; however, the Contributors are open to collaboration with individuals or groups pursuing projects that align with or support the aims and values of the Project.
The Australian Natural Burial Project is not concerned with the commercial evaluation or endorsement of third party products or services; however, excellent products or services that accord with the mission and aims of the Project may be acknowledged on this site.
For clarity, the Australian Natural Burial Project is not a trading entity or incorporated body of any type.
This is a peer reviewed website:
The peer review process used in academic research is a well established practice whereby similarly qualified professionals review the work of colleagues to ensure the logic of their research methods, and the reasonableness of their conclusions.
We have adapted the principle of peer review for this website to ensure, to the greatest degree possible, that the information presented here is carefully considered and factual wherever claimed.
All work published on this site is the collective product of the Contributors. Every argument, statement, opinion, analysis and guideline has been subjected to review, and is only published when joint consent is confirmed. The criteria for consent are as follows:
Any statements presented as ‘fact’ must have a demonstrable factual basis, and cite reference sources where applicable.
Any opinions presented must be based on rational argument.
All communications promoting the Project’s aims must be transparent.
The Contributors are:
The Back Story:
The Australian Natural Burial Council was formed in 2016, however, its origins trace back to 2007 and a fortuitous meeting in Adelaide between Dr Vanda Rounsefell, a sustainability advocate, and Mr Kevin Hartley, at that time an active consultant in the funeral industry.
Vanda had been engaged in the establishment of the Aldinga Arts Eco-Village in South Australia
since before its inception in 1999. This large intentional community embraces ecological sustainability and Permaculture practices. Vanda’s interest was already primed in her student days by reading early popular works such as ‘The American Way of Death’. While doing content analysis for the National Capital Planning Authority on a major international ecological cities ideas competition in the late 1990s, she immediately noticed the presentation of the notion of 'sustainable death' as one of 100 sustainability ‘Patterns’ (after Alexander’s “A Pattern Language”) presented by a competition entrant during work. She saw the development of a natural burial ground at the Arts Eco-Village as a logical extension of its aims to promote sustainable living, and set about coordinating implementation in 2004.
Prior to their meeting, Kevin Hartley, a 20 year veteran of the funeral industry, had become disenchanted with what he described as 'the increasingly sanitised nature of modern funerals', and was looking to natural burial as a simpler, more connected and meaningful process.
Seeking to better understand the technical and legal aspects of natural burial, and natural burial grounds, Vanda had contacted a number of existing funeral directors. She didn't find the support she was seeking; nonetheless, she left her business card with a number of firms, and two years later one of those cards found its way to Kevin.
The two joined forces and offered their support to the late Hon Dr Bob Such, a long-standing Member of the SA Parliament and natural burial advocate. Dr Such chaired two Parliamentary Committees, one examining the provision of cemeteries and another, then in process of completion, expounding the concept of natural earth burial as an option for a city running out of burial space. He was the driving force behind proposed new legislation for South Australia that would ultimately see natural burial and natural burial grounds formally defined and recognised for the first time, and Vanda and Kevin were honoured to have been able to contribute to both the latter Report and the new Burial & Cremation Act.
Kevin and Vanda held a public meeting and formed a non-incorporated public advocacy group called The Natural Burial Society that attracted about 150 members. There was nothing in the existing South Australian laws that prohibited a natural burial, or the establishment of a private ‘cemetery’ that could be used exclusively for natural burial. Nevertheless, despite four years of intensive effort and lobbying, gaining the combined consent of Local and State government remained elusive under the existing Acts and Regulations. Frustrated, but still determined, Vanda and Kevin decided they would simply have to wait for the passage and gazetting of the new legislation.
The Natural Burial Society was disbanded, but not before they had progressed the work of developing guidelines and policy directives aimed at promoting a well defined and genuine form of natural burial. Their work lay dormant for several years until Dr Such’s legislation came into force in late 2014.
Supported by the new laws, Vanda and Kevin re-commenced efforts to establish a natural burial ground at the Arts Eco-Village, and in December 2016 the first burial took place at what is now known as the Aldinga Arts Eco-Village Natural Burial Ground - the first stand-alone facility established in the State under the new Act. Vanda acknowledges the long-term support of the Village Community Corporation, the Village Management Committee and a dedicated small band of supporter villagers, now called the Interment Circle, whose contribution has been invaluable to the establishment of this private burial ground.
In 2015, Kevin (living in NSW) began collaborating with Starfish Initiatives to develop a charitable enterprise aimed at promoting natural burial and natural burial grounds at a national level. The project, called earthfunerals, aims to establish a network of natural burial grounds, and to direct the proceeds from funerals toward landscape-scale, eco-restoration programs.
Believing the existence of clear definitions to be essential for the natural burial movement to reach its full potential in Australia, Vanda and Kevin agreed to establish this web presence known as the Australian Natural Burial Project.
That’s the history… the rest is the future.
Vanda Rounsefell PhD, MB, BS, FACNEM, CTA, ITAA
Vanda has a PhD in Human Geography and Environmental Studies from the University of Adelaide, on the application of complex systems theory to sustainable human habitat design and development, and inter alia, has a background in wholistic and environmental medicine and eco-community development. Vanda lives in Adelaide.
Statement of Interests: Vanda's small consultancy, Ecoweb Human Ecology Services aims to facilitate “Healthy People in Lively Communities on a Resilient Planet”.
Kevin has a 20-year broad spectrum experience in all areas of the traditional and sustainable funeral industries, and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychological science from the University of New England. He has won awards for innovations in the funeral industry, and study tours in Malaysia and Europe. Kevin currently resides in Armidale, New South Wales.
Statement of Interests: Kevin is currently working with Starfish Initiatives (an environmental charity) to develop a charitable enterprise called earthfunerals. The aim is to establish a national network of natural burial grounds and community mortuaries that fund landscape-scale revegetation programs.
Kevin Hartley BPsySc