Results of The Future Cemetery Survey 2021 [Report]

The DeathTech Research Team is pleased to present the results of the Future Cemetery Survey 2021. Based on a nationally representative sample taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, this research provides a snapshot of Australians’ experiences with and attitudes towards funerals, cemeteries and technologies for the treatment and commemoration of the dead.

Findings

  • Cremation is by far the most popular choice for what Australians would like to be done with their body after they die (selected by 48% of respondents in the survey).
  • Substantial minorities of Australians would choose to donate their body for use in medical research and education (12%) or have it converted to soil through the process known as ‘human composting’ or ‘natural organic reduction’ (5%).
  • A majority of Australians (58%) are in favour of cemeteries being used for secondary purposes such as nature conservation, tourism or education.
  • A majority of Australians are in favour of renewable gravesite tenure—making the interment rights to a grave temporary rather than perpetual—either as an option (49%) or as a mandatory standard (14%). New South Wales recently joined Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania in allowing renewable tenure, whereas Victoria, Queensland and the Territories currently mandate perpetual tenure for all interments.
  • In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost half of Australians (46%) had attended a funeral service. One in eight Australians (12%) had attended a funeral remotely via online video.
  • Many Australians are open to services that offer ways to commemorate the dead via the internet. Online funeral streaming, online memorial websites, gravesite webcams and gravesite-care-hire services all received more positive responses than negative responses in the survey.
  • Australians are generally sceptical of digital technologies designed for use at the cemetery unless those technologies have a clear justification.
  • Younger Australians are more positive than older Australians towards digital commemoration technologies. It remains to be seen whether this is a durable shift in attitudes that could lead to digital commemoration technologies becoming more accepted over time.

Method

The research was conducted through an online survey platform in mid-2021. A total of n=1,053 respondents completed the survey. All respondents were 18 years of age or older. Respondents were screened to ensure a representative sample of the Australian adult population, stratified by age, gender and state or territory of residence.

All the commemoration technologies presented in the survey were based on real-world examples. These were drawn from prior work by the DeathTech Research Team, including the Encyclopedia of Cemetery Technology: https://cemeterytech.omeka.net/

About the project

The Future Cemetery project aims to identify and critically assess the potential of innovative technologies to enhance the public’s experience of the cemetery, diversify service offerings and strengthen community connections, all in the context of rapidly changing circumstances. For more information, please see our projects page.

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