Circumstances of the Death

Regardless of your personal feelings for an individual, dealing with the death of a person is always a difficult and painful experience. The information on this page is taken from the Department of Human Services website

The circumstance under which people may die can be broadly categorised as expected (as a result of terminal illness or age) and unexpected deaths (where a healthy person dies unexpectedly, accidents or foul-play).

Death resulting from accident, injury, or criminal activity 

To report an unexpected death contact the police immediately, or for further advice (24 hours, seven days a week), call 1300 309 519 and ask for Coronial Admissions and Enquiries.

Death at a hospital or nursing home

Many people die in a hospital or nursing home – and if this is this case the staff will handle most of the formalities. Also any next of kin will be advised what steps need to be taken.

Most public and some private hospitals will have their own mortuary and the deceased can be kept there until the body is transferred by a funeral director if you choose to appoint one. You can also keep the body at home. However smaller hospitals and most nursing homes are unlikely to have facilities so it’s important to decide in advance so you can arrange to transfer the deceased as soon as possible.

Death at home

If someone you know dies at home it’s important to try to stay calm and don’t jump to conclusions in the stress of the moment. If the person’s death was expected it’s likely that their doctor may have been in touch with you or other close friends or family to discuss what will happen, and you can call the doctor’s surgery to ask them to visit as soon as possible. If the deceased doesn’t have a regular GP the police should be called instead. A doctor is needed to examine the body to attempt to ascertain the cause of death and write a medical certificate. A funeral cannot be arranged until this certificate has been completed.

If the death is unexpected or you are not sure if the person is dead call 000 immediately and ask for an ambulance and explain as best you can what the problem is and describe the circumstances. Once the ambulance crew arrives they will either contact the person’s GP or the police. It’s important to know that if the death was unexpected, not clear, is suspicious or the person did not have a regular GP, the police must be called. In some cases, the Coroner may also be involved to conduct a post mortem to determine the cause of death.

Death certificate or doctor’s certificate

It’s important to note that a doctor’s certificate of cause of death shouldn’t be confused with an official death certificate which will need to be issued by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in your state (see below).