Embalming is vital in the funeral industry, but a lack of skilled practitioners is causing concern


Deanne Edwards spends a lot of time with dead people.

“It’s such a fascinating world,” Ms Edwards said.

“That’s my utmost thought the whole time.” 

After nearly a decade of working as a funeral director, she became an embalmer to help bring comfort to loved ones as they grieve.

Embalming is a procedure to sanitise, restore and preserve a body after death.

Ms Edwards has noticed a lack of embalmers in South Australia.(

ABC News: Lincoln Rothall

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Ms Edwards was privately trained by a South Australian master embalmer and is hoping to one day become a qualified trainer.

After taking up the practice, she noticed there was a lack of embalmers in South Australia.

“There are just too many people who have retired, and not enough people to train new people or continue the practice as they get older,” she said.

A woman in red hair handles surgical equipment in a dimly lit room
Deanne Edwards said she had experienced the impact of a lack of embalmers in South Australia firsthand.(

ABC News: Lincoln Rothall

)

“There has been a situation where I have needed someone that has more qualifications than myself, but they’re not available.”

She said advances in refrigeration technologies and an increase in cremation had impacted the age-old trade.

But despite that, Ms Edwards said more people in the industry needed to take up embalming.

Training blocks need addressing

Australian Institute of Embalming board member Ian Warren said South Australia lacked embalmers.

“There is not a shortage of people interested in wanting to do the course … we would have two or three enquiries a week,” Mr Warren said.

“The issue is that you really need to be working in the funeral industry, and then working for a company that does embalm and has a qualified embalmer who’s happy to take on students and be their mentor.”

Bottles of surgical chemicals sit on a table next to a white and blue towel
Embalming is often required if a body needs to be sent overseas for burial or if there is a long delay between the death and interment.(

ABC News: Lincoln Rothall

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He said some students may be required to complete up to 50 embalmed bodies with their mentor before they are allowed to work by themselves.

Mr Warren is also a chief tutor at Mortuary and Funeral Educators, which is one of two registered training organisations in the industry.

“We have not had any students [in Adelaide] for at least seven years, so there is a bit of an issue that’s probably unique to Adelaide.”

A man wearing a blue suit, tie, white shirt and glasses sits with hands folded looking at camera in a dimly lit room
SA/NT Australian Funeral Director’s Association president David Lawlor.(

ABC News: Lincoln Rothall

)

The president of the SA/NT Australian Funeral Director’s Association, David Lawlor, said embalming was still a key part of the industry.

“If someone is being repatriated overseas they would need to be embalmed,” he said.

“Or if there is a delay between the death and the funeral taking place then there would be a need to embalm the body.”

He agreed there wasn’t a huge uptake of new trainees in South Australia, but didn’t believe there was a shortage of embalmers.

“I think at the moment we’re OK but in the future, we need more students to come through as embalmers retire.”

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