EARTH FIRST: Environmentally sensitive burials get tick of approval from Mother Nature

ORANGE City Council is to be commended for its decision to establish a natural burial site at Orange Cemetery, aptly named Melaleuca Gardens, after the beautiful native shrub that grows with such abundance in Orange gardens.  

Similar natural burial sites can be found in Adelaide, Western Creek, Lismore and Shoalhaven. The practice of natural burial is widespread in Britain and in Europe.

Melaleuca Gardens offers a more environmentally sensitive alternative to conventional burial practices. The natural burial process is for those who wish to be interred in the more traditional manner which was commonplace in our colonial past, and was accepted practice before the emergence of the funeral industry. 

A return to tradition

NATURAL burial is a return to the 200-year-old colonial Australian experience of death, whereby our pioneer ancestors were frequently buried “in the bush” or “in the land” (Kellehear 1997). “ It is about simplicity and economy as much as it is about being environmentally friendly” (Butz, 2009).

Environmental advantages

THE environmental advantages of  the natural burial alternative are many. 

Deceased loved ones are buried in a coffin which is simple and inexpensive and is designed to break down rapidly, such as one made from pineboard or cardboard. Nothing is included in the coffin design that could not rapidly decompose. 

Another alternative is no coffin at all- a shroud being used instead. Both practices  greatly reduce the impact of burial on the environment.

Additionally, no preservatives are used, as conventional chemicals such as formaldehyde are detrimental to the environment and delay decomposition.

A beautiful  garden

THE ultimate aim is to transform the burial site into a beautiful native garden which will provide pleasure to those who visit.  

There will be no headstones or grave markers, as the garden stands as a monument to all of those buried within. Instead there is a large memorial stone placed in the garden, upon which families can  place a standard plaque in memory of their loved ones. 

Burial locations, although not acknowledged by  tombstones or markers will be accurately recorded. No vases or artificial flowers are permitted. 

Council contribution

ORANGE City Council has contributed to the integrity of the site, which has been designed and resourced in keeping with the principles and philosophy appropriate to natural burial.

Melaleuca Gardens has been constructed using Australian native plants, woodchip from recycled hardwood, recycled hardwood railway sleepers, a memorial stone made from reclaimed sandstone, a sign made from recycled plastic, reclaimed topsoil and no lawn to reduce water use. 

Natural burials are not for everyone. They do, however, provide an alternative to conventional burial or those of us who wish to return to the earth in a manner which contributes to the environment, and can be seen by those who are left behind as being remembered as  part of a beautiful garden. 

For those interested in visiting the site, it’s  located at the far south edge of our cemetery. 

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