When a death happens overseas

Local authorities are required to tell the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade if an Australian has died overseas.

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When a person has died overseas, local authorities will determine the process for dealing with the person's death in their country. This covers anything legal, such as investigating the death, and arrangements for the deceased person's body.

After that happens:

  • The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade contact police in Australia.
  • Police visit the family or next of kin to let them know about the death.
  • Funeral directors in both countries can work together to meet your wishes.

You do not need to travel to the country unless you want to but you do need work with the local laws and regulations for dealing with death. These may vary greatly and may not be in line with the deceased person's will or religious beliefs.

To help you understand these issues, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can provide advice and assistance. They may also be able to help with lists of local funeral directors and lawyers and other questions.

Families can contact the Consular Emergency Centre  on 61 2 6261 3305 if you are overseas and 1300 555 135 in Australia.

If your loved one had travel insurance covering death, the insurer will have processes in place. Contact the insurer to find out more information.

The Department of Justice has details on how to register an overseas death and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has information on death overseas.

Importing ashes or sending them overseas

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There are no requirements for bringing human ashes into Australia or exporting them overseas but there are some things to keep in mind.

Containers holding the ashes should be free from contaminants such as soil. If made from wood, they must be declared on arrival or before departure. Contact international airlines beforehand to see if ashes should be carried by a passenger or included in luggage.

Also check with the country the ashes are coming from for their export requirements. If human ashes are to be imported by mail, check with Australia Post for any conditions.

It may be helpful to contact a funeral director or a customs broker to assist you with the process. Stricter conditions apply to human remains.

Page reviewed 10 May 2020