Information about the day of the exhumation 

Exhumations are carried out very early in the morning, the justifiable reason for this being the cemetery must not be populated.  Other families visiting the cemetery to pay respect to their loved ones must be protected from the potential unpleasantness or distress an exhumation could cause.

One of the important rules of an exhumation is that only the necessary parties to the task may be in attendance. This means that family members cannot be present at the exhumation site. Obviously some of the things a family may see involving their loved one after a period of time could cause lasting emotional damage, so this rule whilst appearing harsh is designed to protect families’ hearts and minds and future wellbeing.

You may have a witness to the exhumation but the law requires that this person have a certain standing in society. Generally they must be a police officer, solicitor, or possibly a clergy man. Often if the health department requires an officer on site this process will have a duel implication.

The day and time for the exhumation must be determined by agreement with the cemetery authority. Once approved, the exhumation must be carried out on the day and at the time specified. Some municipal councils will require an appointed health inspector or supervisor to be present at the exhumation to ensure the process is carried out in accordance with the licence granted.

Once approvals are in place, this approval then becomes in effect a warrant or legally actionable document giving permission to carry out the exhumation on a particular day and time.

It should be noted that cemetery staff do not conduct exhumations. They excavate graves and maintain cemeteries, while Funeral Directors care for the handling of the human remains at the exhumation site.

This means that the Funeral Director enters the grave to remove the remains from the grave site carefully and to work in conjunction with cemetery staff.

This means that the actual grave must have shoring and other safety procedures set in place to prevent the possibility of cave-in or collapse of the grave.

In some states of Australia in NSW for example the cemetery staff are trained to bring the deceased to the surface and the Funeral Director must be on site ready to receive and care for the remains.

Go to an illustrated Case History