Burial, cremation, or the ‘Gentle Way’? – Triple J’s Hack

Professor Michael Arnold spoke to Tamsin Rose of Triple J’s Hack to discuss what’s changing in the way we treat human remains:

If you take the view that every step that can be taken should be taken, then one might say we should be looking for methods of disposition which are much more environmentally friendly.

The full story is available on the Hack website and in this episode of the Hack podcast.

Public webinar: What is critical and what is hidden in the time of COVID-19?

Questions of what or who is critical to managing the COVID-19 pandemic have been at the heart of media discussion, public recognition and government policy on a global scale. Such concerns – of what constitutes critical workers, material resources, public services and community responses – are being addressed and prioritised at local and national levels in different ways, even as collective anxieties over the COVID-19 pandemic vie for attention with other social, economic or political crises in given places. In this context, it becomes important to consider what is hidden or unseen amid a global pandemic, of how individuals, communities and other key workers are excluded from ‘frontline’ imaginings of crisis and pandemic.

Drawing on research expertise and insights from Australia, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, India and Indonesia, this Critical Issues panel event will explore these issues, asking what is both critical and hidden in the time of COVID-19.

When: Thursday, 4 November from 5:30pm to 7:00pm AEDT

Where: Online (Zoom link will be sent by email following registration)

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/what-is-critical-and-what-is-hidden-in-the-time-of-covid-19-tickets-189989623077

Enquires: Jenny Li, zhen.li@unimelb.edu.au


  • Tamara Kohn, Professor of Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Monica Minnegal, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Jeff Garmany, Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Rachael Diprose, Senior Lecturer in Indonesian Studies, University of Melbourne
  • Amanda Gilbertson, Senior Research Fellow in Anthropology, University of Melbourne
  • Paul Green, Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Melbourne

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.

Public seminar: Digital Technologies for the Future Cemetery

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.

Encyclopedia of Cemetery Technology

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:

The Encyclopedia is now open to contributions.

Cemeteries could be places where we can all find some rest and peace – The Age

DeathTech team member Samuel Holleran spoke to Maeve McGregor about how a new cemetery at Harkness, Melbourne’s largest new cemetery development in a century, could double as a recreational site:

There’s a growing recognition that what cemeteries can deliver best are things that planners are often looking for elsewhere: walk-ability and urban green space.

Read the full story here.

Artist Meets Expert: Death Tech at the Wheeler Centre

Professor Michael Arnold spoke with musician and artist Sui Zhen at The Wheeler Centre on 28th April. The event was part of Melbourne Knowledge Week.

Event description:

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.

Art, Memory, Place: The Role of Public Art in the Future Cemetery


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

Event description:

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?

Number of posts found: 55