Families face a very difficult process when someone dies. This is particularly hightened when it is the persons’ or families wishes for them to be returned to another country outside of Australia. This process is called Repatriation.

Academy Funerals are very experienced in dealing with repatriation and can relieve all this stress for families.

Registration of the person’s death prior to departure

No matter which country the person comes from or is going to the person’s death must be registered prior to departure in the normal manner with the State Registrar of Birth, Deaths and marriages. The State registrar once advised of the death will also require notification of the intention to transfer the person out of Queensland to another country or state.

In most instances three certified death certificates are required for the repatriation of someone who has died and requires repatriatriation to another country.

Why are three copies required?

  1. One is for the airline and usually accompanies the airline weigh bill. This certificate is nearly always kept by the airline for their records.
  2. The second is for the funeral director at the destination to perform the funeral at the cemetery or crematorium.
  3. The last is for the family’s legal purposes in relation to finalising estates.

It should be noted that for some counties a certified Australian death certificate may need to have a consular endorsed seal.  This is known as an Apostille seal or stamp.  And in some instances have a complete translation.  This then ensures that the document/s are recognised as legal in the country of destination.  Furthermore, it should also be noted that some countries require an international “Notary Public” to witness endorse and sign a photocopy of the certified death certificate for it to become legal tender in the country of destination.

Academy Funerals are very aware of which countries require this extra service and will advise you at the time, as there is an extra cost involved for the Notary Public.

Following are the details that are required to register a person’s death in in all States of Australia.

  1. Full name of deceased
  2. Gender
  3. Date of birth and date of death
  4. Place of death
  5. Place of birth
  6. Residential address
  7. Occupation
  8. Was the deceased retired?
  9. If overseas, date and/or year of arrival in Australia
  10. Marital status
  11. Place of marriage
  12. Age at marriage
  13. Christian names of spouse
  14. Surname of spouse
  15. Fathers full name
  16. Father’s occupation
  17. Mother’s Christian name
  18. Mother’s maiden name
  19. Mother’s occupation
  20. Children’s Christian names and dates of birth
  21. Name and address of cemetery or crematorium in the intended country

What Happens Next?

For Academy Funerals to book and ensure the safe arrival of the deceased at their destination, Academy Funerals require the exact details of the consignee, (this is normally the funeral company in the country of destination) which is the term for the person who is responsible to take the person into their care on arrival in the country of destination.  As the consignor Academy Funerals must have the FULL name, address, international phone and fax numbers as well as the E-mail address of the consignee or funeral director at the receiving end before a booking can be made with the Airline.

This is to ensure that when your loved one arrives at their destination they will receive the specific care and attention on arrival that will be required.  The consignee is generally a funeral director but on some VERY RARE occasions can be the family of the deceased.  Consequently, it is the consignee’s responsibility to commit to be waiting for the scheduled arrival of the deceased at the airport of destination.  It is also their responsibility ensure all appropriate documentation is cleared through customs and quarantine before the airline will release the body from their care.

The consignee must also have a suitable and adequate vehicle to transfer the deceased to the funeral home on arrival.  The consignee may also be required to pay any import tax or custom tariff on arrival to the country of designation

What is “OK to Forward”?

The process of what’s called an OK to Forward is built on the above criteria to send what is called in air Cargo terms an N.H.S or “Natural History Specimen” the consignor will contact the Airline directly or via a professional freight forwarder to create the freight or flight booking at this point a weigh bill is created which is the international system for the systematic direction and tracking of all items of freight.

The departing airline will contact the airline at the arrival destination to seek the commitment of the consignee or receiving funeral director to agree to the above criteria as the consignee. The process is then reversed back to consignor or sending funeral director and the consignment is then endorsed as OK to Forward and the booking is confirmed.

Depending on where the person is being sent this process frequently takes up to 24-hour because of time and dateline differences.

Other repatriation aspects to take into account are:

Frequently consultation is sought from the Consul of the particular country –

  • Their specific requirements for sealing and shipment to their country.
  • Some countries require a permit for the deceased to travel (not unlike a visa); and
  • Assistance with translating all relevant documents so that the receiving funeral director and local authorities can understand the documentation when the deceased arrives home.

Travel Insurance

Almost all travel insurance policies contain a specific clause stating that in the event of someone dying overseas the insurance company will cover the cost of returning their body home. Or the cremation or burial of the person who has died overseas.

This is of great assistance to families as an International Repatriation can be expensive.


When you take out the travel insurance you must disclose any pre-existing health problem.  Sure this may increase the price of the policy but if you are not forthcoming the policy may be cancelled.  With insurance companied honesty always pays because they will always check before they pay out.

What are the legal requirements to repatriate by air?

  1. The deceased must be embalmed to international standards by a qualified embalmer. This preservative treatment of the deceased is designed remove the requirement of refrigeration. This procedure provides temporary preservation of the body and frequently improves the condition of the deceased until they arrive at their final destination.  It also ensures the safety of the numerous people who will handle the casket throughout the journey.   Embalming is a legal and mandatory requirement unless, however, there is a significant religious objection.  In which case the Airline has the final word on whether the person fly’s or not.
  1. The coffin/casket and body must be securely sealed and packed On most occasions and to most countries of the world, the deceased person must be placed in either a hermetically sealed polythene Body bag or an inner metal zinc container that fits inside the coffin. Alternately, there is a new product on the market known as “Bio-seal” which is a mixture of both plastic and metal.  Once, the deceased person has been sealed by one of the above means the person who has died is placed in the coffin/casket as chosen by the family which is then wrapped for its protection and safety in an outer Cardboard coffin.  However, some countries require that the whole package be wrapped in an outer material called sisal craft which is a waterproof tar paper this is to keep the Coffin protected and dry during transit so it may be used for the funeral at the country of destination. During air carriage, the casket must be identified clearly with the name of the consignee and the destination.  And the deceased’s name.  This is accomplished by taping all relevant documentation under the name plate secured to the lid of the coffin.

Can you Travel with a Loved One?

The staff of Academy Funerals realise that on most occasions it is the desire of the family to travel with their loved one. On every occasion, we will endeavour to ascertain the availability of seating for the family on the same flight home as the person who has died. This is not always easy at short notice. Nevertheless, by using our contacts in the travel industry we will do our best, to achieve this.

What happens if someone dies overseas and needs to be returned to Australia?

This can be a very upsetting time as most families will receive a notification at their home by the local police. This initial call is often the first news of their loved one’s death and you are not sure where your loved one is, what has

happened and there are many calls to advise immediate relatives and friends.

In the first instance contacting Academy Funerals is a good idea as we have networks, partnerships and friends in business all over the world that can assist with practical assistance and advice.

Apart from Academy Funerals the Australian Government has the Department of Foreign Affairs and trade Known as DFAT this is our government’s help to the traveller abroad not just in the matter of someone’s death abroad, but in all matters to assist the traveller.

For the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

  • 1300 555 135 (24 hour Line).
  • Outside Australia: +61 2 6261 3305
  • SMS: +61 421 269 080

For further information contact Academy Funerals at all hours on 07 3261 8222 and/or email us via our Contact Us form.

Bringing someone home from Overseas

This is a much simpler operation.  All you need to do is contact Academy Funerals who will liaise with the funeral company who is handling the repatriation.

This company will E-mail all the relevant documentation to us and we will handle all the clearances and on your behalf, pay the import tariff to the government.  We will meet the aircraft and take your loved on into our care.  Unpack and check that everything is in order.  Then arrange for family members to come and visit.  We will also arrange for the burial or cremation in the normal way.