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After Death: Behind the scenes of Australia’s funeral industry | Four Corners

Apr 21, 2024
It is 5:45 in the morning in Coburg North, Melbourne, this van is loaded with bodies that are about to be taken 200 kilometers north, to New South Wales, to be cremated. At the end of the day, these people are not meat, they can't. It will simply be sent because it is convenient that the van is owned by one of Australia's largest independent

funeral

companies. Do you tell clients that their loved one could be traveling with potentially

four

other people in a van on the highway across the border? It's not something we don't disclose that most Australians will organize at least one

funeral

in their lifetime, but many of us have no idea how funeral companies treat the dead.
after death behind the scenes of australia s funeral industry four corners
Our biggest concern is that the majority of the public believes or thinks that we are a regulated

industry

. We are not. already loaded

industry

. I am sometimes horrified by some of the things I encounter in the funeral industry, the underlying general charging, bad behavior, pressure or families, things like that are very worrying and I think a lot of people would feel very uncomfortable if they knew the Families at their most vulnerable and distressed are often loved and manipulative. Treating the person who died with dignity is incredibly important. Sometimes I shudder to think that when I die nothing has changed.
after death behind the scenes of australia s funeral industry four corners

More Interesting Facts About,

after death behind the scenes of australia s funeral industry four corners...

I don't necessarily want to go through the process as is. With many businesses today there is room for improvement and there must be improvement Tonight on the Four Corners we investigate what goes on behind the

scenes

in this largely unregulated industry we expose the questionable tactics some funeral businesses use to win business and make profits from Grieving families also reveal why they continue to get away with murder Last year, more than 150,000 people died in Australia and most ended up in the hands of a funeral director. Caring for the dead is now a $1.6 billion industry. Nigel Davies owns Mel Burns Oldest Funeral Home and offers some unusual ways to say goodbye tonight, what can you do with your loved ones?
after death behind the scenes of australia s funeral industry four corners
You can have urns that are designed to be submerged in water in case you want to do the cremated version of the burial. Let's see, you can have the jewelry around your neck. My mother-in-law has her husband's ashes under her bed and her dog's ashes around her neck, showing her appropriate status in life in the extreme case that we have someone in the US right now. who's turning into five diamonds six grand per diamond so 30 grand for your loved one to make you a nice necklace presumably what's the next frontier of what you can do with your loved one once they're gone .
after death behind the scenes of australia s funeral industry four corners
I've known someone who turned her mother's ashes into ink and literally has her mother tattooed on her arm. There is a coffin for every taste. We have everything from the wool caskets that we have here, which are obviously for people who want to feel a little warmer and cuddlier than traditional wooden boxes, there are eco-friendly options, pure calico, unbleached natural material, it's what ultimate in environmental friendliness throughout Australia, the most basic farewell, a cremation without a funeral service can cost as little as $1,250, the most elaborate. can reach tens of thousands, you can get a solid gold one.
I think $6070k if you buy a high end one, not that I've sold one of those. Nigel Davies believes that just bereaved families are open to exploitation. My biggest concern is indeed, families are forced to do things that are not necessary or appropriate. In reality, the funeral industry is like any other industry. There will be 5% saints and 5% sinners. The problem with the funeral industry is that the 5% of sinners should be the people. They complain, but they don't do it because they can't cope with the emotional cost of complaining. I think it's problematic when the industry is known for its opacity and quite a few incidents where we see the industry being accused of exploiting practices right now in most states anyone can go hang a shingle and become as a funeral director without any training.
Nigel Davies' staff have just collected a body for cremation. They perform around 500 funerals a year, but independent funeral homes like these are being gobbled up. by large corporations, if you look at some of the biggest brands, they are shareholder focused and revenue focused, you know there is a very large monetary component associated with the way they work, it's just them. I don't think funeral service belongs in a stock environment. I know it's not an environment where you have to force the absolute or optimize every dollar for every family. Carly Dalton owns her own funeral home and is the president of the Association of Independent Funeral Professionals.
She went out alone because not Just like the industrial approach of large companies, there would be three or

four

embalming tables and three or four embalmers all working together, men and women, and a lot of activity to ensure privacy. Well, it's open. You know, you have their fighters coming in saying, "Mrs. so-and-so Mr. Reddy. Brown ready, you know where the paperwork is for this, where is this, for that, there's a lot of activity, a lot of noise and a lot of work. Carla Dalton says the corporate business model can generate higher prices for customers with a lot of the other.
Larger funeral companies have a lot of overhead, they have a lot of offices, a lot of chapels, there is a lot of money invested and tied up, so it was necessary to generate income to pay for that infrastructure. The lack of price transparency in the funeral industry is centered on the fact that they sell you a package and from within that package it is very difficult to understand what components you are purchasing that make up that package and the comments that I've received, it's a lot of exploitation that's happening where people Do you know that they are selling or selling products and services that they don't really need?
Sandra van der Laan is an accounting professor who has researched the funeral industry. The bottom line is that all consumers in the funeral industry are vulnerable, so I believe that the industry has a greater duty of care towards consumers, as purchasing products that they do not necessarily need or want may not be affordable for some families in Dealing with grief with a funeral home can be a traumatic experience in 2012, 22-year-old Lee Stroud. Old son Tom died in a car accident. We were never able to talk about this. The Victorian Transport Accident Commission gave the family ten thousand dollars to cover the funeral.
They chose Lapine, one of the best-known brands in the state. We start walking around selecting coffins and being asked a multitude of questions is quite surreal and during that, yes, during that lario time, things go through your head, but we made these selections, we got to a point where we ended up for that day all that time and we checked where Did you know that when it comes to pricing to make sure we hadn't gone over a budget where you can check and find out if we really know our limits and they informed us at that time?
Yes, we were satisfied with the service. but they were shocked when they got an email from the pine two months later saying they had gone over their budget of $10,000, it was a huge difference, it wasn't just $100 or $200, it was forty seven hundred dollars and we just couldn't fathom it. I said we can't do this, it's not right and I tried to come to an agreement which we couldn't, they knew what the costs were, they just didn't let us know and you know if it was a mistake, I'll never know if it was just a price increase, It's my gut feeling because of the way they handle the whole situation afterwards.
I mean, if you're clean and legit in what you're doing, you have no problem presenting it and on time and doing your best. a cost guys, you're over 50 percent and you're okay with that and, more importantly, you know you can pay it, you know, and we don't get it, we just get a bill, you know, a few weeks later and then the Threats pay, otherwise. I know you will have debt collectors and my imagined credit rating will be yours and the analysts, despite the family's concern about the bill, Lapine contacted them repeatedly and sent the account to the company's debt collection agency when They couldn't pass.
I've been wondering that he actually targeted Daniel Tom's father because he put his name on the paperwork, so they admitted me to the process and then left after they harassed him. My wife was so upset that she knew I'm tough. She won't budge and she just didn't want to be seen without paying for her son's funeral and I had to pay for it I'm sorry, take it Heather paid over the course of a year and wow, I'm getting engaged and there was nothing. I could do it because once your pilot was too bad there was nowhere to complain to Martin Herb is the CEO of Invo Care, the company that owns Lapine, where we let the family down is that we didn't let the family know that those requests additional services were going to exceed the government limit in terms of government contribution and unfortunately they were surprised that when we built them for those additional services, why was the family not told even though we have policies and procedures in place we are a company which has over 1,800 people and within it, when dealing with people, unfortunately, from time to time, people make mistakes and in this case a mistake was made.
Thomas's stepfather Gavin thinks it was price gouging, was it always Invacare? seeks to price fairly, we always make sure to sit down and talk to families about what they are doing and how much their range tours will cost and we are very clear and open about that in this case where we obviously couldn't tell the family that were going to incur those additional charges instead of the government paying them is entirely our fault and I apologize because the caller is the largest funeral operator in Australia. The company says it performed about 22 percent of the country's funeral homes last year. funerals their brands include simplicity cremations with guardian value their premium offering is white lady the white lady brand was established over 30 years ago it is a very iconic Australian brand and I think the main reason they choose it in part is because it is completely different to what I'll call the traditional male-dominated product that existed for many years within our industry, so it's attractive to have an all-female, all-male service.
A basic service through a white lady can start at seven thousand dollars, but this does not include the cost of cremation or burial, fashionable hair brands have different prices, but the bodies often end up on the same tree and They are treated by the same staff, most of the internal things are done by the same people regardless of the brand. you're going to, so whether you're using one of the Invacare brands, the transfers to the facilities and the preparation are done by pretty much the same people, so it doesn't matter which brand you're using at the facilities where it's taking place the preparation. or the supplier of the various products all come from the same place, so whether you pay $10,000 for an Invacare brand or $3,000 behind the

scenes

, it's pretty much the same, it's very possible that it happens in the same mortar II, but It means very similar to going to a restaurant and you can order a different meal.
Your main dish can be much more than someone else's. It continues to happen in the same kitchen until 2012. Terry Clifton worked for Invoker's Lapine brand in Melbourne. He is now a competitor. Running your own small funeral business after becoming frustrated with the company's operations and sales tactics, is how staff are conditioned to upsell or push the product or add-ons for a funeral itself. Here he gives us some examples of that. funeral stationery, it could be memorial books, flowers, you know, DVD presentations and other things where a lot of those things can be done, some of those things can be done by families, funeral homes tend to push those add-ons Martin Earp says that in recent years there has been no incentive to increase sales.
How come in the past the company had incentives for staff to absorb products? In the past, there may have been some incentives, certainly under my supervision. we aim to reward excellent customer service Michael Cox is a qualified embalmer who runs his own funeral home. He has been in the industry for 22 years. In fact, he passed away at his house more than a week ago. He wants funeral directors to be more open about how they conduct their businesses and treat the dead with more respect. What are some of the worst things you and your staff have seen?
Trash from a dumpster put in a coffin, you know, because they don't have a medical waste container or just because I want toget rid of some rubbish and have put it in the coffin with the deceased, if they run out of space in the central room they will put the deceived people upstairs to write on the same train because I won't say no a funeral a crematorium running towards a big commitment eliminate Melbourne the stop and become the phone came back in said look I just have a van stopped with three trusts stacked on top of each other, so, and then one on top untied freshly loaded in the back of the wagon, thanks Tom, the staff there also told me that they took clothes hangers out of the chamber, so when the cremation chambers where the cremation takes place are done so clearly, the families are given clothes and the clothes have just been thrown into the coffin with the clothes rack on absolute Michael Cox despairs at the lack of supervision of funeral directors and more trees in any room.
Has the local council ever come down to do an inspection to see what it looks like or how we stay in the disease we need licenses and we need regulations in terms of appropriate standards for the care of the sick person our biggest concern is that the majority of the public believe or think that we are a regulated industry we are not a regulated industry the industry needs regulation because the role we play in a community is an important role and the role we play is also important that we do it well it is important for the family it is important that the children of the family know that the person they loved and cared for is cared for Because appropriately, this is where we begin our basic casket.
You'll get that particular casket from start to finish with all that work for $2,900. Ian Gibson runs White Dove Funeral Care at Dandenong South in Melbourne. He has been in business for almost 30 years. years, you get all of our services from start to finish, pick up, the deceased from the place of

death

, preparation and he is considered a respectful operator, but not everyone is happy with the service he provides. I operate without airs of grace, what you see is what I Again, honesty, sincere, transparent and that's it, and I don't read everyone down to the last dollar.
Father Albert Yoga Raja found himself in Gibson in 2013 in fifth grade and the prepared children were leaving his church after morning mass and he was preparing for a funeral before the children were outside the building the coffin had been brought to the church the lid was open and the body was inside I turned around to see that the coffin was already in the church open and the children were still there and the teachers were hurriedly gathering and grabbing a cell phone Then I got very upset because the children They were exposed to the open cafe. Their father Albert says the children were traumatized, so he asked Ian Gibson to close the coffin and then he said to me: look, I'm the funeral director, I'm in charge, so do what I want.
I'm telling you today, that's why you're faithful, so I was trying to get out, what he did was he opened his hands, blocked the entrance and pushed me with his belly back to my place, you know first, she did it the second Once, he did it too and then I did. I told him I will call the police this is harassment I will call the police and then the third time when I tried to leave he pushed me and while my assistant was also accompanying him I pushed him and he came out father Albert his dough was fine and It really ended, a family member came to town at three in the morning and that family requested to see him and we didn't know that Father Albert would not allow us to see him in that church.
He says there were still children in the church when you open the coffin you are telling the pigs no, I am not going to follow that path anymore. Ian Gibson was banned from holding any more funerals in the parish but continued to operate three years later he did the funeral of Nicky Lee, who committed suicide aged just 38 his men I was quite strange not bad empathy this smile that came and went he he had taken the details from the

death

certificate and he was walking out the door and he turned around and said oh well how did he commit suicide?
He wanted to know what type of body to expect with a smile on his face and we were stunned. Nikki's mother, Lynn Jones, wanted to see her daughter one last time and she went to Ian Gibson's funeral home to see her. I was a little surprised that she was lying down, there was a mouth half open and her teeth were visible and I said well why are you showing her your teeth oh she had such pretty teeth and then a friend of the family was there and she told me but that's no. it's the usual way the funeral director presents the face, he said she had nice teeth and then he said to my friend, different from yours, and I can tell your age by your teeth, you know, and because she used to do it , used to be able to.
In estimating the age of the sheep, none of these experiences compare to what happened to Michelle Appleton's family in 2015. The Melbourne mother was dying of cancer. Michelle was planning her death and the way she wanted to look. I know it may sound funny, but she. She went to a lot of trouble, she picked out several outfits and I think it was her way of getting us used to maybe not having her around her and she would present the outfits to us and ask us what you think she would look best with the shoes. these or these she wanted certain activities that I had to go get her in a certain dress, her nails done that we had organized and her hair and makeup done properly because she was only 42 when she died.
Michelle Appleton had engaged and Gibson's company. to have her funeral, I remember about five days. I think before she passed away, she was so proud of herself that she had done it or had done it. I'm fine, I finished everything. I have the funeral directors. I wrote exactly how I want everything to be done. I paid them for the last things I did. They told her that they ran only women, kind of like the other companies that provide ladies-only services for other ladies, and convinced her that there would be women there. to pick up and prepare her body which was what she wanted after her death from the moment Michelle died there were problems, it was late at night and a man showed up in a van and said I'm here to pick up her body and I said well Who are you?
It was organized to be women only for collecting. Oh, any ghost. Oh, my lady is in the car and I said who will pick her up. We wanted women only Neos, well, it's me, it's two in the morning. This is all you get. They are not going to pick her up Nicole was upset, but they allowed them to take her mother's body, then things got worse, we planned to see her because some members of her family wanted to see her before they cremated her. I called and asked about it and he said that. Her body was too bad to be seen and we were all in her room when she died.
She had suffered a stroke caused by cancer that spread to our brain and she just didn't wake up, so there was nothing really wrong. She just seemed normal, yeah. She seemed a little sick, but it wasn't anything horrible that she shouldn't have been able to see right away. I realized that there is obviously something wrong with why he says no to seeing it. Nicole changed funeral directors and they chose. uploading Michelle's body by Ian Gibson Nicole was horrified when she looked at the coffin, it was quite obvious that the coffin Michelle was placed in was not the correct coffin for her dimensions at the time her dress was on her so she was not dressed. in her dress and otherwise I am not qualified in Barmes so I cannot comment on Michelle's preparation thank you but I know that Nicole was very upset when she saw her mother, she was stuck in a coffin that was too small, her shoulders were quite high up, it's just not a normal position at all and her clothes were just thrown on top of her, her shoes weren't on her, her hair was a mess, she had saliva all over the side of her face, her eyes.
They were black and sunken there were so many things that weren't right and that didn't look anything like what she looked like. We have seen photos of Michelle Appleton's body clearly in a coffin that is too small for her. Do you deny that that happened? Now the coffin would fit there easily, the mother or Michelle, she was no bigger than me and a smudge, a coffin was the appropriate size, but I mean, we've seen the pictures, her shoulders are squeezed close to her ears, she's clearly tight. alpha a small place... it wasn't that, it wasn't that small, no, it was quite reprehensible and shouldn't be operating if you're not going to treat your loved ones with respect, participate and operate, and that's the problem. in this industry and there aren't enough people to hold accountable for their actions after Nicole changed funeral directors and complained on social media.
Ian Gibson claimed that he had been defamed. Was he happy with everything he tried to prevent the cremation from going ahead by going to court? court order that said he needed the body as evidence. One of the most important parts of this whole story is that here was a family suffering and then he was prepared to take them to court because she lashed out at him and what he did after that was what I considered totally unprofessional Christian Maxwell is the CEO of the company that handled Michelle's funeral. Are you concerned that she is still allowed to operate?
Of course, of course, because you know that for every bad funeral operator it takes away from the fact that they are a good funeral place and people who care and love, who have a passion for the industry, how what Anne Gibson did impacted you and your family. He would understand how many key feelings and there is no reason for her to feel like she has failed him. mom, but she does and that's not fair and that's not right and that shouldn't be much for anyone in this Apple and the story is I don't know where you've come back so far and this was this father Albert, I say.
Little I don't know, I don't know who it is why you tanned me so you could get the names of these people, if where you discovered them, then you have done a little research or someone is putting the slipper under me. So, end of story, why would there be two people who complained about you? Why would there be three or four different people who made all this up? Nothing more to say The interview ended seriously, so you have nothing to say. Sighs, I'm not going to go into this any further. I've been prepared for you guys, I'm not interested, no, we're just presenting to you the complaints that have been made, yeah, and they're all done and dusted and and you.
I'll just bring them up in front of everyone to get a story and my name will be on TV and smear it, so forget about totally disappointed, totally disappointed, with Buddha as a mortuary transport driver in Victoria. Danny Hughes sees another dark side of In this industry, how bodies move, one of the things I don't like is that most public hospitals, many nursing homes take the body out the back door, where all the trash and rubbish coming in and out, rather than out the front door. door I do not think it is worthy some nursing homes and hospitals have agreements with large funeral companies to collect the bodies a few hours after a death in some cases the family will have already hired a different funeral home that we often receive in a hospital and we will find that the bodies are not there, the body has already been delivered to a large funeral company and they are in possession of the body and I am aware of dozens and dozens of cases where the family has not been aware that their loved ones have been moved some in the industry say this puts pressure on the family to go to the funeral home that picked up the body the family discovers that their loved one their mom or dad or brother or sister has gone to a funeral director and the practices in which the The funeral director then calls the family and the family feels obligated to come in and sit through a variety of funerals and what that does to the family is it doesn't give them the opportunity to consider their options in the pursuit of profit.
Some companies transport bodies interstate for cremations. This van leaves the Tobin Brothers Mortuary in Melbourne with five bodies bound for New South Wales, where the company has its own crematorium. I am concerned that bodies are being transported to the state for cremation only because it is the funeral director who tries to avoid the fact that, particularly in Victoria, because all cemeteries and crematoriums are run by trusts, the funeral director funeral home makes no profit, whereas if they cross their border into New South Wales they can make some profit from the symmetry of the cremation fee and how many bodies you would take at a time.
The times it can be, it could be one, it can be two, it can be three bodies, they are transferred to bury the belly, three would be the maximum in case they can get it now. may take approximately four may take costs per group depending on the size of the coffins could take up to five Do you tell clients that their loved one could potentially ride with four other people in a van on the highway across the border? It's not something we don't disclose, does it explicitly tell you that the crematorium is in New South Wales and it's across the border?
Yes, oh, all ours becausewe need to complete the NSW health and health documentation that the client's family needs. sign and yeah it's infested which is um it's on the Murray River across the border they say they tell families when they sit down with them and ask them to sign the paperwork it's too late I think from my I see it is because once you sit down and do that paperwork you are probably engaged with the funeral director and like I said anyone can do it, all consumers of funeral products are vulnerable and at that point you know if there is someone who has experience. this would know you just want to do it James McLeod says his staff were unhappy with the service provided by Victoria's state crematoriums, so the company began bringing bodies to New South Wales to its own facilities, it's a profit center by Tomah. brothers, but it is also important for us that we maintain the care of the decision, its care because when we hand it over to a third party we do not know what the training is, what their experience is, etc., the fact that companies are trying to earn money. taking bodies out of Victoria for cremation is ridiculous, you take someone's loved one, you drive them, you know, in some cases, 300 kilometers in a van where they shake and move when you know there are perfect facilities here in Victoria that Could deal with that and in some ways it should be illegal, so how did that Repat car get made?
It's fantastic during the anniversary. Cristian Maxwell runs Zolly, a company that owns several funeral brands in Victoria and New South Wales. He sees no need to move bodies across state lines. Do you think that if these funeral companies are transparent and tell their customers that they will take their loved ones to a different state for a cheaper cremation, that's okay? I still think no, because at the end of the day these people are not meat, they cannot be sent simply because it is convenient. An extreme case of bodies being moved across the country for profit occurred here in Queensland, south of Brisbane, between 2009 and 2011. 59 bodies were driven 600 kilometers to Rockhampton for cremation without their knowledge. of the families, the man who did this is funeral director Anthony James Anthony, we just want to ask him a few questions, why isn't he answering the questions?
There has been a lot of criticism within the industry about you why you are not answering questions despite serious concerns from the industry Anthony James has been given permission to open a crematorium in this building in Bethea Nia south of the Queensland capital. I am sometimes horrified by some of the things I encounter in the funeral industry the case of Anthony James in Queensland who wanted to open a cremation facility caused much distress to professional associations Australian cemeteries in the Crematorium Association New Wales funeral directors South Four Corners approached Anthony James at his funeral home for comment, unfortunately the council there responded to us and said well Andy Vox what we have to take is if the facilities made standards there is nothing to do with the ethical behavior of the person we can deal with that state government and although the local federal member was pushing hard the response from the state government was that it doesn't seem to be a big concern, we'll let it go.
I think the entire industry, the ethical part of the industry, is a little horrified that governments have so little interest in this mortuary van transporting a body that must be cremated in New York. South Wales, before this can happen, the deceased person has to be examined by a doctor who can verify their identity. Unfortunately, the cremation document states that I am satisfied with the identity of the body and have now seen it, which creates a problem where you then have to transport the person to the doctor's office for identification, in this case the practice GPS is in a shopping center, the funeral home manager takes the doctor to the place where the truck is parked at the loading dock, opens the body bag and the doctor confirms the identity today we film a doctor entering a dock load to identify a body and there were people carrying fruits and vegetables there were forklifts and shoppers passing by is that acceptable no, I think it's embarrassing that we have a doctor who is next to a fish and buying chips is ridiculous it's disrespectful it's humiliating and I know that our staff are horrified every time they have to do it and it's just morally wrong and it shouldn't happen Michael McCoy is the head of the NSW Funeral Directors Association, he says it's I've been lobbying the government for 15 years to change the form to align it with other states and put an end to this undignified practice.
Imagine what older people would think if they walked past a van with the body inside and a doctor standing there. It's horrible for them. is that the whole scenario is totally wrong after being addressed by four

corners

, the NSW Department of Health says it is reviewing cremation certification requirements. I really feel for the doctors who are involved in all of this, it's something they honestly don't do. they want to do and they are doing it because the law or the New South Wales health department says it has to be done. Losing a loved one is difficult at the best of times, but a bad experience with a funeral director can make things worse for grieving families.
We often become vulnerable consumers and many think it is time to change. Look, it's not a very nice industry, we're always on the hurting side, but I think the more open and honest we are with everyone, I think the better it will be. To everyone, I wonder how our government doesn't have some sort of organized legislation for this. We trust and have faith in the people who care for our loved ones and the fact that they can get away with it, I don't understand. If at any time you doubt or think that you just don't feel well, your intuitions are usually always correct.
If you don't feel good at the beginning, you certainly won't feel good at the end.

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