The New England Project

In the New England High Country of New South Wales, earthfunerals is working to realise Australia’s first stand-alone, natural burial ground.

Getting started

The first challenge was to locate a suitable site that would pass a rigorous, environment assessment process. We received two offers from local landholders willing to donate the use of part of their land for the natural burial ground. The site chosen to be developed is located at Banded Bee Farm, a 16 Ha regenerative agriculture farm at Saumarez Ponds (just west of Armidale and Uralla).

Property owners Ray South and Jane Pickard immediately recognised a synergy between their permaculture influenced farming practices, plans to revegetate their land, and the principles of natural burial. Here’s what Jane said when interviewed by ABC Rural Radio;

“What we’re all about is trying to develop and live sustainable lives and that includes how you’re going to be buried. The way most burials happen now with a lot of non-biodegradable stuff and a lot of toxic chemicals going into the ground with the bodies it just doesn’t seem right to me,”

Confident of the viability of the site, we began to engage with philanthropists and interested individuals and have successfully raised the $28,000 required for the formal development application.

The second stage of fundraising for development of the site is now open. Add your support the Project by clicking here to make a tax deductible donation.

Making it happen

Once consent is granted and development begins, we will work with our environmental partners toward an initial aim of revegetating around 30% of the burial ground site with indigenous trees, shrubs and grasses. Concentrated around the boundaries, and along a network of access pathways, these establishment plantings will define intimate burial glades. The glades will be divided into generous sized grave sites, with the precise location of every site mapped and recorded. Following a burial, a ground level, stainless steel marker is engraved and installed to permanently identify the site.

Each burial will fund the establishment of some 200 native trees and shrubs, and these mass plantings will form part of a series of living memorial groves that honour the lives of the deceased. The memorial groves are to be located beyond the boundaries of the actual burial ground, and will form part of a greater, landscape-scale eco-restoration project.

Here in the New England, earthfunerals has partnered with the Armidale Tree Group (ATG), who bring to the project more than 30 years of experience and expertise in the restoration of local ecosystems. Under the canopy of their ‘Every Tree Counts’ initiative, ATG have nominated the restoration of the Saumarez Creek Wildlife Corridor as one of its major, long-term objectives.

Re-establishing the vegetation and ecosystem along the course of Saumarez Creek will restore the vitality and biodiversity of this iconic waterway. In time, the creek area will resume its role as a significant wildlife corridor spanning from Saumarez Ponds on the western escarpment to Dangars Falls in the east.

Realising the vision

Every single burial in the New England Natural Burial Ground will restore an acre of the wildlife corridor. The passing of a single life is honoured in this meaningful gesture that restores life to the earth for the benefit of all.

In collaboration with ATG, planting days in Autumn and/or Spring each year will provide the opportunity for family and friends to be directly involved in establishment of the memorial groves.

Spring and Autumn will also be the time when individual graves are memorialised with the planting of a native tree or shrub within the burial ground itself. Families will choose from a selection of local indigenous species, and, again, have the option to come together to participate in a personal and hands-on way.

Online memorialisation, here on the earthfunerals website, will also be available. This ‘virtual headstone’ allows family and friends to ‘visit’ from anywhere in the world. The simple format displays personal content chosen by the family, and images of the burial site and memorial groves. The location of the burial site will also be provided for the benefit of those personally visiting the facility.

Sample Online Memorialisation

Once operational, the New England Natural Burial Ground will enable earthfunerals to offer High Country residents the opportunity to conclude the funeral service of their preference with a genuine natural burial – a simple return to the earth that is both personally meaningful and environmentally sustainable.