An Essential Service: Experiences of Australian Deathcare Workers during COVID-19 [Report]

An Essential Service examines on the experiences of Australian deathcare workers during COVID-19.

Deathcare is an essential service, one that upholds the dignity of the dying and the deceased, addresses the emotional, cultural, and spiritual needs of the bereaved and their community, and protects public health. However, the ongoing lack of recognition for deathcare as essential during the COVID-19 crisis, both within public health directives, and more broadly, by the media, non-governmental and commercial bodies, and the wider community, has impeded the sector’s ability to delivery high-quality care and to protect the welfare of its workers.

The report presents the results of a scoping investigation for the period between June 2020 and June 2021. It is based on qualitative data collected via a survey of Australian deathcare providers and semi-structured interviews with workers representing different segments of the sector. It focuses on the professional and personal impacts of COVID-19 and makes several recommendations for future policy and research.

Citation: Gould, Hannah & Samuel Holleran (2021) An Essential Service: Experiences of Australian Deathcare Workers during COVID-19 [Report]. The University of Melbourne.

In addition to the report, the team is releasing a public preview of our photo exhibition, entitled Endline: Deathcare During Melbourne’s Covid Crisis.

Endline is a photo series by Bri Hammond, created in collaboration with the researchers Hannah Gould and Samuel Holleran. It pays tribute to the diverse people who work in deathcare, from palliative care clinicians and funeral directors, to morticians, religious celebrants, crematoria operators, and cemetery staff.

Endline will be issued as a photo book accompanied by essays. Endline will also be exhibited in Melbourne at the beginning of 2022. See the website for a preview of the images.