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The definitions above have been arrived at after a thorough review of world literature on this and related subjects, and are offered in the hope that it will make sense for others to adopt them voluntarily. Those who are or who seek to become associated with any aspect of the natural burial process in Australia will find here a solid basis for understanding its principles and practice. 


We looked to the recent history of natural burial in the United Kingdom, both for inspiration and to learn from the experience of others. In the UK, the absence of clear definitions set the stage for both poorly considered development, and deliberate 'greenwashing'. This has served to confuse the public perception and limit the potential and growth of natural burial practice.


There are estimated to be about 220 burial places in the UK referred to as ‘natural burial grounds’. About half are sections set aside within existing cemeteries, and among the remainder we estimate maybe as few as 50 would meet the definition above. All are referred to as natural burial grounds, however, standards and practices vary widely. Many provide headstones and plaques, some accept standard (toxic) chipboard coffins, others allow embalming. In short, these are simply private cemeteries landscaped to appear more environmentally friendly.


Enthusiasm for establishing natural burial grounds in the UK may well have been fuelled by market research (e.g. New Zealand, and Canada) that consistently indicates that more than 30% of people would prefer a natural burial. It is possible that what has not been fully appreciated is that more than 30% of people would prefer a genuine natural burial - not just a burial in a more natural looking place. The first ‘natural burial section’ opened in the UK in 1993. Nearly 25 years later, and in stark contrast to research findings, fewer than 1% of all burials in the UK occur in the 220 ‘natural burial grounds’.


The natural burial movement is in its infancy in Australia, and a great deal of work remains to be done before all Australians have the ready and affordable option of a genuine natural burial. However, the establishment of clear definitions at this early stage will support the work of all involved to see the natural burial movement reach its full potential. 

Want to learn more?

The downloads on our Guidelines page will assist in understanding more about the ethos and processes of natural burial, the different types of genuine natural burial grounds, the difference between these natural burial grounds, and 'burial sections', and even how to undertake a preliminary assessment of a potential natural burial ground site.


The Guidelines and information available at this site are offered freely under Creative Commons Licences to any person or group interested in natural burial. 

One of the Project's aims is to foster the development of a coherent, ecology-linked natural burial movement in Australia. An important step in this process is the development of clear definitions.


Here we specifically define what does and does not constitute a natural burial, and what does and does not constitute an ecology-linked natural burial ground. Throughout the remainder of the website we show how these definitions can be developed to create a meaningful link between end-of-life practices and the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.

Natural Burial: Return of human remains as directly as possible to the earth, while adhering to all legal, cultural and practical requirements. Non-embalmed remains are contained within a minimal-resource, bio-degradable coffin or shroud, and buried at the minimum legal depth to promote natural decomposition.

Natural Burial Ground: A life-centred memorial place, not part of a traditional cemetery model, set aside exclusively for natural burial, and characterised by the existence or restoration of native vegetation. An eco-conscious, natural burial ground has a finite active life cycle. Once the burial ground capacity is reached, operational maintenance is replaced by minimal-cost, landscape preservation practices, and the site remains a natural flora and fauna reserve.

Why definitions are important:

Other recent social movements, such as the search for ‘sustainability’ itself, have been hampered by lack of an agreed definition. If we can agree on what we are talking about, and all adopt a consistent basis for understanding, the fledgling movement will have clarity and integrity right from the start. 

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