Illawarra funeral directors have come together to plan the best path forward to help grieving families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following tougher restrictions announced on Tuesday locally owned H. Parsons Funerals,Rankins Funerals, Wollongong City Funerals, Mountain View Crematoria and Stan Crapp Funerals met to discuss the way forward.
They felt by collaborating they could establish the best way to help grieving families at this difficult time.
Funerals were initially limited to 50 people by the Federal Government to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The national cabinet then decided on Tuesday to restrict gatherings to 10 people from midnight Wednesday.
On Thursday that requirement was relaxed a little so one or two more attendees could take part so important family members don't miss out.
But the final determination will be made state by state.
Regardless of whether it is 10 or 12 the new limit includes the celebrant and the bereaved family.
H. Parsons managing director Alan Parsons said the loss of a loved one is always difficult.
But new social distancing requirements have effectively changed how families send off their loved one.
"We have always been honoured to support families and be part of their funeral celebration process. We have witnessed the comfort that gathering together to say goodbye and to celebrate a person's life brings to others. Unfortunately, new restrictions will now change how this is done".
H. Parsons general manager Brian Hood said the focus was now to continue to assist families in creating a suitable service with available options.
That includes webcasting funeral services to uphold social distancing requirements and the responsibility funeral directors have to the community they serve.
"The community will always have an emotional need to be a part of this important occasion. For many, part of our own healing is to be able to show support, care and respect to a life once lived, even if it is from a distance."
Mr Hood said local funeral directors have been inundated with calls in recent days following each progressive announcement asking what would happen if they need their services.
And they have been very proactive in working out what to do and putting new policies in place including what to do if more than 10 or 12 people turn up to a funeral..
"Webcasting is going to gain in popularity and more people say they are going to choose no service no attendance. A number of families have said that. Their plan is to do a memorial service at a later point in time".
For those who do choose to still have a service Mr Hood said webcasting enables anyone to participate in the service from home or anywhere in the world. It is a service that has always been arranged free of charge.
"All people need is internet access and a computer, tablet or mobile phone. The funeral teams can supply easy and clear instructions on how to join".
Wednesday's meeting noted it was clear that Australia was in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And coming into the winter will create many challenges for the community and funeral providers.
But Mr Parsons said they have considered everything.
"We are definitely ready," he said.
"Our professional teams have been prepared, well trained and are diligent.
"As a result of our collaboration, all locations and locally owned brands have implemented elevated and strict hygiene and cleaning practices throughout with the creation of dedicated cleaning teams to ensure the safety of families, the community and our employees.
"We have prepared our chapels in accordance with the current NSW health guidelines for disinfection".
The Illawarra funeral directors are also being innovative with catering staff.
"Our catering division can still assist families with delivery or take home of refreshment style food to assist with your home catering needs," Mr Parsons said.
"H. Parsons has faced many social, economic and environmental challenges over the past 130 years of service to the local community and we will continue to do so. Our caring staff are available 24 hours a day seven days a week even during public holidays".
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