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Do you need permission to scatter human ashes?


There is no general permit required for scattering cremated remains in Victoria. Your loved one may have a favourite place, holiday destination, or somewhere special that holds a significant memory. Any such places would be ideal for a scattering memorial, and this is often a lovely idea.

It can also be in your backyard, under a special tree, beneath a favourite rose bush, under a favourite bench. Always keep in mind though the prospect of possibly moving at a later date and if this would bother you at all.


Local councils and other public bodies have varying requirements concerning the disposal of cremated remains, with some even having no formal policy at all. For example, scattering ashes in the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne is prohibited, but Hobsons Bay City Council expressly permits the scattering of ashes on land owned by the council. To be safe, contact the local council where the land is located to obtain permission if you wish to scatter ashes on public land.


In Victoria, you can inter or scatter cremated remains on your own privately-owned property without needing any other permission. If the private property is owned by someone else you will need permission from the owner of the land.


You do not need a permit or permission to scatter ashes at sea, or in rivers. However, keep in mind a few things:

  • If you are scattering from a vessel it is a good idea to get permission from the boat owner to scatter. See this article from Cruise Critic about scattering from a cruise ship.
  •  If you are at the beach or on a pier be mindful of other members of the public when scattering.
  •  Often it is quite windy by the water, so be mindful of the direction of the wind when scattering. You don’t want to have remains scatter back to land or into anyone.

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What to do with loved one’s ashes

Once your loved one has been cremated, there are a few things you can do with their remains. Firstly, it’s worth noting you don’t need to do anything with their ashes if you’d prefer to keep them. You can choose not to scatter them and keep them at yours or a loved one’s home.

For an alternative option, some families choose to keep remains at a permanent memorial, providing friends and family a physical place to pay their respects. This fixed location ultimately serves as a destination to visit, commemorate and celebrate your loved one’s life.

Your loved one’s ashes don’t have to stay together either. Families can choose to split the ashes of the deceased among the wider family, where the individual families can choose what they want to do with them. This can assist with the grieving processes by offering everyone in the family a chance to remember the life of the departed the way they wish.

Where can you spread ashes?

Some families choose to scatter their loved one’s remains in locations that reminds them of that special person. There are restrictions around where you can and can’t scatter your loved one’s ashes depending on who owns the land, so always look into receiving permission first from the owner or person in charge.

Simplicity Funerals can help with sourcing a permanent memorial for you loved one’s final resting place, or with managing the logistics around obtaining permission to scatter their ashes.

Frequently asked questions

Despite cremation typically being more popular that burials in Australia, there are still many questions around what’s involved and what happens after. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we get asked at Simplicity Funerals:

  • Can human ashes be mailed? Technically yes, but many shipping and postal services don’t always allow it. It’s best to check with your chosen service to see if they allow this.
  • Where can I scatter ashes? You can either keep the ashes in a decorative, sealed urn, bury them in a small plot or memorial site, or scatter them at a special location chosen by you or your loved one. However, you will need to ask for permission if your chosen location is on public or private property.
  • Can I scatter ashes anywhere? You can scatter your loved one’s ashes in public, but in most cases, you will need to obtain permission from the local council. If it’s on private land, then you’ll need to obtain permission from the owner. If you own the land yourself, then the decision is entirely yours.

Some more tips:

1. There Are Scatter Urns

If you decide to go forward with scattering, you may want to choose a scatter urn. This is a plastic container about the size of a tissue box. Because it’s only designed to hold the ashes temporarily, it is generally less sturdy but also less expensive than other types of urns. That may be something to consider if you’re trying to keep costs low.

2. There Is No Health Risk Associated With Handling Ashes

As long as a body has been cremated by a professional, the ashes are completely safe to handle. The cremation process involves very high temperatures that remove any potential germs or toxins. If you come into contact with the ashes during scattering, you can rest assured that you are safe.

3. Scattering Rules Vary From Place to Place

Before scattering ashes, it’s important to get permission. If you want to scatter ashes on private land, you need permission from the landowners, and for public land, you should contact the local council or other authorities. Unfortunately, without the right permission, you may face fines or other issues.

4. You Can Scatter at Sea Without a Permit

If you want to bury a body at sea, you need to get a permit, but you don’t need a permit to scatter ashes at sea. However, you shouldn’t just jump on a ferry and scatter ashes. You need permission from the operator of the vessel. You may even want to hire a vessel just for the purpose of scattering your loved one’s ashes.

5. You Can Combine a Memorial With Ashes Scattering

Some people opt to have a memorial service at their church or at the funeral home and then scatter the ashes separately. Others opt to combine the memorial with the scattering. Ultimately, you need to decide what works the best for you and your family.

One tradition that is growing in popularity is “beaching.” You and other loved ones spell out the name of the deceased in the sand. Then, you gently scatter the ashes into the sand and observe several moments of silence whilst the waves come in and gently wash away your loved one’s ashes. Rituals like that can be cathartic for many people.

6. It’s Important to Note the Wind Direction

Once you find a place to scatter your loved one’s ashes, it’s critical to work with the wind. Whether you are on land or at sea, look at which direction the wind is coming from, and make sure you attempt to scatter the ashes with the wind. If you throw the ashes into the wind, you will end up covered in them, which can be an unfortunate situation during an already difficult time.

7. There Are Other Ways to “Scatter” Ashes

Traditionally, when people think of scattering ashes, they think of scattering their loved one’s ashes at a beach, in the ocean or in a favourite forest, but those are not the only ways to scatter your loved one’s ashes.

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