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.
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.
The Encyclopedia of Cemetery Technology is a global map and directory of technologies that augment the experience of interacting with a cemetery. It was created by the DeathTech Research Team as part of the Future Cemetery project, based on a systematic review of academic, industry and popular publications about cemeteries and technology.
The Encyclopedia summarises the type and function of existing cemetery technologies. The major application categories are:
In this public seminar for the University of Melbourne School of Computing & Information Systems, Dr Fraser Allison presented several studies from The Future Cemetery project.
He introduced the major challenges that cemeteries face in the 21st century, described notable examples and a typology of digital cemetery technologies from around the world, and summarised what we have found about public attitudes to digital cemetery technologies in Australia.
How might disposal of the deceased be designed in the 21st century? Imagining beyond burial and cremation – in a world of rapid social, technological and environmental change – seven artists respond to this question, presenting moving and provocative new work.
DeathTech Team member Dr Hannah Gould recently talked to ABC News Sunday Extra about the problem of capacity facing Australia’s cemeteries today and in to the future, and how we might solve it by adopting the international practice of reusing graves.
Samuel Holleran spoke to Conor Burke about how images of mass burial and cremation around the world became symbolic of the losses suffered during Covid-19: loss of life, loss of individuality and loss of ritual normally associated with a ‘good death’.
Broadcast on Sydney’s Eastside Radio 89.7 FM on Sunday 30th May. Listen here.
Given enough data, can AI recreate the essence of a human consciousness? In this conversation, avant-pop musician and artist Sui Zhen – creator of the Melbourne Knowledge Week performance Losing, Linda – joins Professor Michael Arnold of the University of Melbourne DeathTech Research Team to discuss where artistic expression intersects with themes of death and grief.
Losing, Linda, combines upbeat electronic pop songs with video art, encouraging Sui’s audience to reflect on mortality and memorialisation, while Arnold’s research lies at the intersection of technology, death, and social media. Both consider what it means to live and die in the Digital Age.
Presented in partnership with Melbourne Knowledge Week.
In March 2021, Samuel Holleran participated in a panel discussion for MPavilion about cemeteries and the role of public art in memorial spaces. The event was co-organised with the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, and the recording is now available to watch on YouTube.
Participants: Dr Amy Spiers, Claire Martin, Samuel Holleran, Hamish Coates and Katrina Simon
Contemporary cemeteries are moving towards becoming places of community, through their increasing permeability, adaptability and open space contributions. This discussion explored how art can facilitate this transition, reflect on the rich and changing multicultural populations of Melbourne and support people experiencing grief, or otherwise visiting.
Moderated by Katrina Simon, RMIT University’s Associate Dean of Landscape Architecture, the discussion featured an interdisciplinary panel of practitioners and academics. Audience involvement was encouraged, to help the panel interrogate current practices, speculate on potential roles and muse on opportunities for art within future memorial spaces.
While the arts sector has been heavily impacted during this pandemic, many people are thinking about death more than they ever have before. The conversation explored complex questions regarding the ways public art can play an important role in providing opportunities for collaboration, connection and new voices through engagement in the cemetery landscape. Can public art provide support to people experiencing grief? What is the value of participation with public art and how might this translate to the cemetery environment? How can symbolism and woven narratives reflect personal stories and instil our sense of place in the city? How might we normalise discussion about death and dying?
DeathTech research collaborator Dr Emily van der Nagel spoke to the Guardian recently about preparing a “digital will” and organising your digital legacy.
From the article:
Dr Emily van der Nagel from Monash University says that people should spend some time planning for how their online accounts and identities will be managed after they die.
At a basic level, she says people should think of it like backing up their data. If there are things you want to preserve – for your family, friends or for your own records – it’s best to download a version so that you won’t have to rely on third-party companies.
That could be favourite photos, tweets, blog posts, videos or songs you’ve uploaded.
“A lot of platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and in some cases YouTube, offer really good tools for you to download everything that has been part of that platform,” she says. “That is really good practice to do, semi-regularly, say when you are updating your passwords.