To investigate human relationships to death and ceremony through alternate approaches and technologies

Czech Republic
United Kingdom
Health and Medicine
Community Service
To investigate human relationships to death and ceremony through alternate approaches and technologies featured image

We sit on a threshold in Australia in the changing relationship to dying and death in the western world. There is a movement to increase death literacy both on an individual and a community level, to enhance community capacity and social capital, and to reclaim agency in how we care for our dead.

This project looks at the disruptive influences of emerging technologies and approaches including -

  • the different approaches to body disposal being suggested and developed in the western world; and
  • the different approaches being taken to death and ceremony.

The purpose of this project is to document and understand the different approaches and technologies and look at how they are changing the human relationship to death and ceremony with a view to enhancing the Australian experience. 

My key findings include:

1. More focus should be placed on end-user outcomes (the family's experience) in the research that is being done into body disposal technologies.

2. There needs to be substantial research into the science behind the vast anecdotal evidence showing that the acts of being in contact with and caregiving for the dead, makes for improved and healthier grief and bereavement outcomes.

3. Very clear boundaries need to be set around the definition of and roles of a Doula both in Australia and globally.

4. Introduction of micro-credentialing and proficiency accreditation in Australia - this needs to be established as having a limited place within this end of life work meaning that a national standard will be created for Doula training and service provision within the community.

5. Medical communities and facilities need to implement doula-led educational strategies within their organisations with the view to adopt the Doula role into paid positions as non-medical support - they should be an addition to the staff of every hospital and care facility. This should be promoted through partnerships with organisations such as Palliative Care Australia.

6. Experienced Doulas should be included in the teaching courses for nurses and doctors in relation to their awareness and understanding of this role as a complimentary therapy (currently other complementary therapies have the opportunity to present in this context in various programs).

Rebecca was a 2021 Policy Impact Program participant and featured in the Policy Features publication with her article Reimagining Death Care for Ageing Population. Watch her presentation below. You can also watch all PIP presentations here.


Rebecca Lyons

Rebecca Lyons


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