One of the matters relating to bereavement, which a funeral company usually relies upon for assistance and advice, is when someone dies overseas, and the family needs help repatriating the deceased so that their funeral can occur. Although it is a relatively rare occurrence that most families will never need to experience, it can be incredibly challenging for those sharing it. To assist you in grasping the concept of repatriation better, we have gathered information from the professionals at

For anyone unfamiliar with the term ‘repatriation‘, it is the process of enabling the body or remains of someone who has passed away while in a foreign jurisdiction to be returned to their home. The process can be necessary internationally when a person dies in another country and at the federal level when they have passed away in another Australian state.

Repatriation Complexities

From the outset, we will advise that repatriation, for most people, will seem complex, especially if the normal processes are not followed correctly. Remember that each country or federal state will have specific rules, laws, regulations, and administrative requirements, making the process even more confusing. This is why approaching funeral directors and asking for their assistance is paramount.

Another issue, which can often cause upset, is that some countries do not allow bodies to be sent to another country and will insist that the deceased be cremated. Unfortunately, even if the family wishes a burial for their loved one, it may not be possible. It is even the case that the laws in a few countries allow only for local burial, not repatriation. Again, a funeral director will assist you in navigating these legal complexities.

Repatriation Processes

In most cases, repatriation of a loved one will be possible, but as we have mentioned, there will be a set process to follow. For a start, the deceased are usually responsible for arranging and paying for repatriation, albeit with the help of a funeral director and, often, the applicable Australian consulate.

Generally, if an Australian dies overseas, the local authorities will inform the Australian embassy or consulate if the person is alone with no contactable family or friends locally. Note that there could be media coverage in certain circumstances, given that where the death has occurred, the deceased will be a foreign national (i.e. Australian). Unfortunately, there have been instances of a family first hearing about the end of a loved one’s life via the media.

Your funeral directors can provide all the necessary documentation to return a deceased loved one to Australia. Usually, they can do so without the family needing to travel to the country where the dead are. However, notwithstanding what it would cost, there is not usually any rule that states the family cannot do so, especially if they wish to accompany their loved one’s body home.

Usually, the funeral director in Australia will liaise with the funeral company in the other country. Matters such as identification of the deceased and embalming their body, which is mandatory in most cases,  are just two issues that will be discussed.

Repatriation Timescales

One issue that could delay repatriation is when someone dies in suspicious circumstances or the cause of death has not been immediately established. This could mean a police investigation and possibly the need for a post-mortem to be carried out on the deceased. This could delay repatriation by several days and potentially many weeks, given that police operate in different ways and at different speeds worldwide.

Thankfully, the above scenario is rare, assuming your funeral directors have completed all the necessary documentation. In most cases, the repatriation should take, on average, seven to ten days.