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INSIGHT: What makes a good funeral?

ProgrammingKevin Perry
  Insight with  Jenny Brockie    image - The Australian

Insight with Jenny Brockie
image - The Australian

Tuesday 27 May, 8.30pm on SBS ONE 

Neil Betts wants a DJ booth and footy souvenirs at his funeral. Craig wants his ashes sent up in fireworks. Rabbi Wolff wants a simple, traditional Jewish burial.

From wailing to celebrating, Australians are marking death in wildly different ways.

A recent report by Palliative Care Australia found that 70 per cent of Australians think we don’t talk about death and dying enough. This week, Insight opens up the conversation to talk about what makes a good funeral. 

Host Jenny Brockie speaks to people from diverse backgrounds about the funeral rituals they held for their loved ones and whether it helped or hindered their grief.

Those who have already planned their own funerals speak about what they want and whether it should be a sombre or celebratory event.

Guests include:

Neil Betts and Kylie Mouat
Neil Betts is devising his own funeral with the help of funeral planner Kylie Mouat. He’s devising a life celebration that includes a DJ booth, St Kilda footy paraphernalia and a white board where people can write messages and memories. “I want it to be around my life and I want people to take something away from what I’ve done with my life,” he says. Kylie says most funerals are too ‘cookie cutter’ and wants to offer people something different.

Don Burstow
Don Burstow runs a funeral business in Toowoomba. He thinks some people who plan “life celebrations” are kidding themselves and in denial about death. “Regardless of what sort of celebration you create, at the end of the day there’s someone missing from your table,” he says. Don says a good funeral helps bring the reality of the death home to the family, and can help with healing.

Craig Hull
Craig Hull has created a business sending people’s ashes up in fireworks. He says wanted to do something to help people walk away from a death ritual with “something more than darkness and hollowness”. So far he’s sent the ashes of his two pet dogs up in fireworks, and there are plans for human ashes to be sent up later this year.

Father Peter Williams
Father Peter Williams is a Catholic priest with the Parramatta Diocese in Sydney. “Having a rock song within an act of worship, when you’re actually worshipping God and giving thanks for the life of a person, would not be appropriate,” he says.

Rabbi Levi Wolff
Rabbi Levi Wolff leads the congregation at The Central Synagogue  in Sydney. He says religion provides a framework which allows a mourner to go through the grieving process.

Gary Yia Lee
Gary Yia Lee says Hmong funerals are one of the most intricate funeral rituals that exist. Typically a Hmong funeral would last a week to ten days, but here in Australia the ritual is condensed to ‘just’ a weekend and includes music, drumming, and coordinated wailing. “The wailing represents the open expression of your grief,” he says. “You don’t keep your grief inside.”

Sandra Wright
Sandra Wright’s eight-year-old granddaughter, Bridget, passed away in a tragic accident earlier this year. Sandra says it was important that the funeral was a celebration. “It had to be something that wasn’t scary to the children.” The funeral and memorial, which included balloons and Katy Perry music, helped Sandra and her family see that Bridget had touched many lives in a short time.

The program is hosted by Gold Walkley Award-winning journalist Jenny Brockie and airs every Tuesday at 8.30pm on SBS ONE.