Importing or exporting human remains or ashes

​General information

When importing or exporting human remains or ashes, it may be helpful to contact a funeral director or a customs broker to assist you with the process. Funeral directors and customs brokers can be located through local telephone directories or via an internet search. It is important to be aware of and meet all import and export conditions, before movement of human remains occurs.

If you intend to bring human remains or ashes into Australia you should also be aware of any export requirements of the country from where the remains or ashes are to be exported. The source country may have specific requirements or conditions associated with the movement or export of human remains or ashes. It is recommended that you contact the relevant authority or embassy regarding any export requirements that may be in place.

Importing human remains

Human remains can pose a potential risk to human health. To manage this risk, there are certain requirements which must be met before bringing them into Australia.

There is no need to lodge an import declaration when human remains are being brought into Australia for burial or cremation. An import declaration may be required, however, if they are imported for other reasons (see 'Commercial Acquisitions').

While there is no need for an import declaration, human remains being brought into Australia for burial or cremation must be accompanied by official documentation. If the human remains are not accompanied by the required documentation, such as a copy of the official death certificate, official permission is required (see 'Requirements for importing human remains for burial or cremation').

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources have additional requirements when importing human remains which can be found on the Biosecurity Import Conditions database (BICON).

Requirements for importing human remains for burial or cremation

Human remains arriving in Australia are cleared by us and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. To arrange for clearance of human remains you, or a representative, will be required to provide a copy of the official death certificate or an official register extract stating cause of death.

Where an official death certificate or an extract is not available, a statement from a medical practitioner certifying that the deceased human's body does not, or did not before death, have an indication of a communicable disease is also acceptable.

Human remains not accompanied by the required official documentation will need the permission of a Commonwealth Human Biosecurity Officer (HBO) in order to be brought into Australia. Permission can be obtained by contacting the Department of Health via the Human Biosecurity Inbox.

You, or a representative, may also be required to provide:

  • full flight or shipping details to Australia including the air waybill or bill of lading number
  • the name and address of the consignee
  • the passport or a passport copy of the deceased person, or an alternative proof of identification, which includes name and date of birth, from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • contact details for the next of kin.

All documentation should be in English or accompanied by a certified translated copy.

Once cleared, human remains imported for burial or cremation must be transported under the direction or control of a coroner or funeral director and handled by trained personnel using infection control procedures.

Commercial acquisitions

Human remains that are acquired commercially, for a commercial purpose (this includes human remains brought in for display or as curios and for scientific or research purposes) or for a purpose other than cultural or religious ceremony for the deceased, are subject to normal importation requirements. The value of the goods will determine if a self-assessed clearance (SAC) declaration or an import declaration is required.

Commercially acquired human remains (other than clean human hair, teeth or bone) also have to meet certain criteria or obtain permission from a Commonwealth HBO before being brought into Australia.

Hair, teeth or bones can be brought into Australia provided they are clean and have no adhering tissue, blood or faeces. Hair, teeth or bones not meeting these requirements will also need the permission of a Commonwealth HBO in order to be brought into Australia.

Please contact the Department of Health via the Human Biosecurity Inbox regarding requirements or obtaining permission from a Commonwealth HBO for importing human remains for commercial purposes.

Human ashes

There are no requirements for importing human ashes into Australia. There are requirements however, in relation to the container used to hold the ashes. It should be free from contaminants such as soil, and containers made from wood must be declared to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on arrival.

If you plan to carry ashes with you, it is advisable to contact the airline or shipping line prior to travelling. Those organisations may have requirements to be met when human ashes are carried by a passenger or included in luggage.

If human ashes are imported:

  • as, or with, unaccompanied personal effects (UPEs), they will be cleared as your UPEs
  • as cargo (with a bill of lading or airway bill as required), the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will facilitate clearance without any written declaration being required
  • by post or mail; please check with Australia Post for any requirements.

Export of human remains or ashes

There is no requirement to lodge an export declaration when human remains or ashes are exported from Australia for burial or cremation.

If you intend to export human remains or ashes from Australia you should check with the embassy or health authority of the destination country regarding any import requirements or conditions that may be in place. You should also consider if the remains fall under the category of Cultural Heritage (see 'Movable cultural heritage'). Please check with Australia Post or the relevant shipping company regarding requirements for sending ashes overseas.

Movable cultural heritage

Certain human remains may fall under the category of cultural heritage. Human remains of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent (including bark and log coffins used in ceremonial burial) cannot be exported.

Other human remains that have been removed from their place of discovery for 50 years or more may require a permit to be exported. For more information regarding movable cultural heritage requirements, including Indigenous remains, visit the Department of Communications and the Arts (Ministry for the Arts) website.

For more information

For more information on human biosecurity requirements contact the Department of Health:

For further information on requirements for bringing human remains into Australia, visit the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources' BICON database or: