Burial or cremation? Cemetery or Plumwood Moutain?

Some friends of Val have suggested that her body should be buried at Plumwood Mountain, although this would seem to require approval by various bodies, including Council, Coroner and doctor. Other friends have suggested the cemetery at Majors Creek (16 kms south of Braidwood) where her son is buried.

There has been a suggestion that cremation should be considered and Val’s ashes scattered or buried at Plumwood Mountain. I think that this would not be a favoured option for Val. In Val’s paper (Tasteless – see the category Ecological death on this site), she was strongly against current funeral practices that failed to position humans as part of the food chain. The paper talks about an ecological form of death where the body becomes part of “the feast in a chain of reciprocity”, and understanding “life as circulation, as a gift from a community of ancestors and … a flowing on into an ecological and ancestral community of origins.” Val was critical of conventional practices that buried bodies below the level of soil fauna activity. She saw death and “burial and bodily decay as the ground of entry to a sacred ecological community.”

So, I think Val would most likely want to be buried not cremated, where her bodily decay would nuture other life forms at her place. I suspect her preference would be to buried at Plumwood Mountain, rather than in a cemetery.

What are your views?

Go here for more info on natural death options.

This discussion is now closed. Many thanks for everyone’s input and the rich discussion.


13 Responses to “Burial or cremation? Cemetery or Plumwood Moutain?”

  1. dhbennett Says:

    I think that Val would wish to be buryied at Plumwood Mountain. While it may be difficult to obtain all of the permissions, Val was no stranger to difficulties. It seems only fitting that she rest at the place from which she drew her name.

    From dhbennett

  2. Clare Campbell Says:

    I have always wanted to be left out the back of Duchess, wrapped in an old table cloth or patched sheet, under a few heaped snappy gums and rocks – the idea of being buried deliberately out of reach of life’s continuing macro chain is also abhorent to me. Allowing sacred passage into her loved and respected sacred ecological community is a loving vale from those who loved and admired her, testifying to the disciplines and thoughts she leaves behind. Appropriately difficult to arrange, I’m sure!, but surely it can be done . . . ?

  3. Keith Thomas Says:

    The shallow burial at Plumwood Mountain would seem to be the closest to what we know of Val’s wishes. However, we need not get too emotional about the body of a person who is dead – that becomes more about us, not about the person who has died. Death marks the end of the usefulness of the flesh and bones and processes of the person who once inhabited them. We cannot help having an emotional respect for the dead body of a dear friend (or in this case, for me, an admired teacher and distant acquaintance), but in the wider world of biophysical processes, what we decide reflects OUR view of the world and where we place our priorities: human culture, human sentiment or the human place in nature.

  4. Johanna Blows Says:

    I agree that burial – to be part of the food chain, would be Val’s preferred option. As to Plumwood Mountain or the place where her son is buried, this is not clear. Val engaged in a strong campaign to have the ground where her son was buried, to be left to return to its natural state. There are/were native orchids growing there, and she did not want the area to be mowed. So this is a possibility. Plumwood Mountain, yes, that’s her home, and may be the one Val would have preferred. I have not heard Val say anything on these options.

  5. Jane Salmon Says:

    There’s a risk of desecration of the Majors Creek site given the rather vigorous campaign to protect the orchids which, while successful, inevitably became a bit of a tussle with the local Progress Association.

    Cremation is not something Val considered.

    The plan for burial on one’s own land has to pass a council DA and Dept Health regulations about water, nearby structures, soil type and such.

    A grave cannot be shallow and meet these regulations. Parsi burial for example is not accommodated by the regulations in Australia. The natural death movement is but young here. UK much more progressive.

    Funeral Rites, a book (by Robert Larkin or similar) warns about Funeral Director costs.

    However, simple work by friends can overcome a great many commercial stages in processing death.

    We need to choose a suitable site on Plumwood Mountain and test the ground there. No good hitting rock at 2 feet.

    Val talked about death so much! She talked about feeding into the Dua Catchment. She wanted a post hole digger and to be buried vertically. This just isn’t practical. We’d have to go down to about 3 metres!

    Anne Edwards is working hard on the application.

    Some of us could support it in writing via Palarang Council to encourage speedy approval.

    Who is up for digging? You can contact me on upstream2005@yahoo.com.au if you feel that you can contribute brawn or equipment.

    Jane Salmon

  6. Michaela Macrae Says:

    Val’s Shroud

    I believe cotton would biodegrade most quickly, followed by silk.

    Did Val like strong purples, or more gentle? Or both?

    One idea would be to get some purple cotton (like what’s used for
    quilt-making). I can easily make it into something like a doona cover but
    longer. I think that would fit the bill. Once its washed, its nice and soft
    and cosy. Then, everyone could sew their special things on, special fabrics
    like silk and linen, pieces of clothing, buttons, decorations, messages,
    locks of hair…that is what I am imagining.

    The purple background would sort of anchor everything together visually.

    I believe it is possible to print photos onto fabric these days…if anyone
    wants to?

    I don’t know the names of all Val’s special wombats & pet rats. I know only
    Birubi & Victor & Alice. What about having her special animals on there? And a plumwood tree?

    Oh yes, ping pong, birds, waratahs, favourite places. Names of children and friends.

    If you want to contact me about this, please email:

  7. Gill Burke Says:

    To Michaela
    I have about 3m of ramie cotton, 150cm wide.
    Ramie is a mix of cotton & banana-leaf fibre is tough but very biodegradable.
    The fabric a brownish/natural colour, printed with stencilled red & green warratahs in spaced horizontal stripes.
    It was hand-printed at The Silken Tent by the late Hideyo McDonnell
    I would be glad to let you have it if it would suit.


    It has since been suggested that a part will be purple with attached mementoes and patches. Another part, perhaps as much as 2metres will be the Hideyo McDonnell ramie.

  8. Jane Salmon Says:

    Leaf green sounds as though it would mix well with the waratah print.

    The purple was a favourite for Val.

    The brown of the ramie for the earth.

    Sounds really feminst to me.

    The shroud will have to be in Canberra for the transfer of the body to the ground.

    Anne seems to be thinking of skipping the plastic-lined eco coffin and lowering her, wrapped only in the shroud, into her land.

    This covering with pictures, sewing and patched pieces on the one side and a green bordered waratah on the other will be really special.

    Thank you to Michaela and Gilly for offering to do this. Deborah and I would also like to add small pieces, without ‘burdening’ Val. \

    I’ll send you my piece Michaela. Soon.

  9. Anne Edwards Says:

    Council have come back with two more hoops to jump through:

    1. Identification Survey of the Lot showing dimensions of proposed
    burial site and details of the access that will form a restriction to
    users under section 88B of the Environmental Planning and Assessment
    Act (Right of Carriage Way).

    2. Geotechnical Report of the burial site.

    If anyone knows a surveyor or person who can carry out this work at
    short notice please put them in touch with me.


    Grave depth has been revised to 1.5 mtrs (funeral people got it very
    wrong at 4mtrs). This is a more human powered depth – even I would
    attempt that.

    There is some poetry in being buried in a hole dug by the tools you
    have worked with in your garden so long – I think Val would approve!

    Eco-coffins are made a joke by our laws – they are lined with plastic
    and this cannot be removed. Option 2 = wrapping Val in a shroud and
    driving her to the site where we can place her directly in the ground.

    Tobins tell me that by law Val will need to be transported by a funeral
    director (this is to do with health and safety regs).

    It will cost around $2000 to bury Val in this way.

    If anyone can help with the survey and geotechnical aspects of the work or with digging, please contact me immediately on :

    anneedwards at homemail.com.au OR
    anne.edwards at ag.gov.au

    Remaining hopeful.


  10. Heather Colman Says:

    Val’s colours were purple and green for ecofeminism. I shopped with her and she was very clear about this. She preferred a more maroney purple than bright bluey purple, the colour of the local waratah is perfect.

  11. Johanna Blows Says:

    Yes, I too remember Val dressed in purple and green – soft shades, not dark purple but true purple just the same, a mid shade – not dark, not light, together with a soft green and one of her wonderful hats. She told me this was what she was going to wear on her latest trip to the US. I thought she looked like a sprite, or nature spirit – lovely!

    Are her clothese still in her house? Then we could be sure!

  12. Jane Salmon Says:

    It’s official. Anne Edwards is a true, loyal and talented friend of Val and her circle.

    She has submitted a DA for home burial on Plumwood Mountain AND had it approved.

    Many thanks to those who helped Anne survey the site, do the test dig and actually prepare the application.

    There is a proposal that Val be buried at Plumwood Mountain on Friday 30th March 2008.

    Thank you Anne. Val can get home!

  13. Jane Salmon Says:

    30th March

    We will meet Val’s coffin at the front gate of Plumwood Mountain at midday. The service will be across the afternoon with a fire at dusk.

    Debbie Rose will be collecting messages to be read for those who cannot attend. deborah.rose@anu.edu.au

    To RSVP, discuss ceremony, car pooling, tasks or things to bring, please contact Jane Salmon at upstream2005@yahoo.com.au.

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