Information about deaths overseas in this article is provided by smartraveller.gov.au.
Each year almost 1000 Australians die overseas, usually through illness or accident. The death of a loved one is always distressing for family and friends. When the death occurs overseas, isolating and confusing circumstances can make it even more difficult.
The death of an Australian overseas can involve complications in organising the funeral, repatriation and other administrative arrangements and formalities. These processes can seem unfamiliar and unnecessarily demanding for the family or friends, whose priority is to bring their loved one home.
This information is provided to help you understand what consular staff in Australia and overseas can do to assist during this difficult time. It also provides guidance on what should be done when a relative or a travelling companion dies overseas.
When Australians travel abroad, they leave behind Australia’s support systems, emergency service capabilities and medical facilities. The Australian Government will do what it can to help families and friends who have lost a loved one overseas. However, there are legal and practical limits to what can be done on their behalf. You should have realistic expectations about this.
What happens if a family member dies overseas?
Under international law, the nearest Australian mission (embassy, consulate or high commission) should always be notified of the death of an Australian citizen.
If a tour company or a friend notifies us of the death of an Australian overseas, we will always confirm the information with the local authorities in that country. We will then contact the State or Federal police who will visit the next-of-kin (or other contact specified in the deceased’s passport application) to inform them of the death and provide our contact details to them. We can then provide the next-of-kin with further details about the death and advise the steps that need to be taken overseas.
It is important to understand that it is the responsibility of the funeral directors appointed overseas and in Australia to make repatriation and funeral arrangements on behalf of the next-of-kin and in accordance with their wishes.
While consular staff will make every effort to ensure that relatives do not first learn of a death via the media, this cannot always be prevented. If you hear of the death from a journalist, a tour operator or any other third party, you should contact the 24-hour Consular Assistance on +61 2 6261 3305 (anywhere in the world) or 1300 555 135 (local call cost within Australia). We will seek to confirm the death with local authorities and provide advice to immediate family on how to best manage media inquiries.
What happens to the remains?
The next-of-kin will be consulted and the Australian mission and local funeral directors will make every effort to meet the deceased’s or their relatives’ wishes. However, in some countries and in certain circumstances, local regulations and conditions may require a quick decision on what to do with the remains.
How long will it take for the remains to be returned to Australia?
This depends on local regulations and circumstances. In some cases, it can take up to two weeks. It may take longer if, for example, there is a need for an autopsy/coronial inquiry to determine the cause of death.
What happens if the death occurs where there is no Australian diplomatic representation?
Not all countries have an Australian diplomatic or consular post but there is usually an Australian post in the region. Under a consular agreement between Australia and Canada there are a number of locations where Australians have access to consular services through embassies and high commissions managed by the Canadian Government. Informal arrangements also exist with other consular services, including those of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, to lend assistance to Australians in need.
Address and telephone numbers of Australian embassies, high commissions and consulates can be found at www.dfat.gov.au/missions.
Does the next-of-kin have to travel to the country?
This is not necessary unless they wish to. The Australian mission in the country can assist by providing the next-of-kin with a list of local funeral directors, who will make the necessary funeral and repatriation arrangements on their behalf and in accordance with their wishes.
What should I do if my travelling companion dies?
It is important that the death of any Australian overseas is reported to an Australian mission. Access to the directory of Australian overseas missions appears in the ‘Getting Help Overseas’ section of Travel Smart: Death Overseas. The Smart Traveller booklet is issued with your passport and is available online at smartraveller.gov.au.
You will need the following details about the deceased if you report the death:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Passport number, place and date of issue
- Whether they were suffering from any communicable illness
- Whether they had travel insurance and if so, the name and contact details of the company.
If the death is unexpected and did not occur in a hospital, the local police will be involved. If you have not yet reported the death, the police should immediately notify the nearest Australian mission. The insurance company or consular staff in Australia can help to notify the next-of-kin in Australia.
Getting help when someone dies overseas
Information in this article is provided by smartraveller.gov.au:
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provides assistance to Australians who find themselves in trouble overseas. This support is referred to as consular services. These services are provided through our headquarters in Canberra and through Australian embassies, high commissions and consulates.
The Australian Government will do what it can to help all Australians in difficulty overseas, however there are legal and practical limits to what can be done to assist travellers in other countries.
The Consular Services Charter sets out the standards of service all Australians can expect to receive from consular staff, including what they can and cannot do, and is available on smartraveller.gov.au.
A directory of Australian overseas missions appears in the ‘Getting Help Overseas’ section of Travel Smart: Death Overseas. The Smart Traveller booklet is issued with your passport and is available online at smartraveller.gov.au. Canadian missions providing consular assistance to Australians are also listed in Travel Smart: Death Overseas.
The 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) in Canberra can be contacted for assistance from anywhere in the world on +61 2 6261 3305 or in Australia on 1300 555 135 (local cost within Australia).
Australians overseas who need counselling services can contact our Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 to be transferred to a Lifeline Telephone Counsellor.
- Take out travel insurance to cover hospital treatment, medical evacuation and any activities in which you plan to participate.
- Before travelling overseas register your travel and contact details online at smartraveller.gov.au or at the local Australian embassy, high commission or consulate once you arrive so we can contact you in an emergency.
- Check the latest travel advice for your destination at smartraveller.gov.au before you go. Subscribe to receive free email notification each time the advice is updated.
While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia’s diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.