3 min read

How Cremations Actually Work

Gone are the days of traditional burials, crypts and mausoleums. These days, more than 75% of Australians are now choosing cremation as a way to preserve their loved ones' remains. But with much of the cremation process happening behind closed doors, it may seem confusing and somewhat mysterious. In this blog Safewill explains what cremation involves, how long it takes and what happens afterwards.

Smoldering candle

What is cremation?

Cremation is an alternative to burial which uses intense heat to transform someone’s body into a fine powder. Unlike traditional burials where the body takes years to break down underground, cremation takes only a few hours. The body is placed inside a coffin or casket before being put into a furnace, known as a cremator. This process reduces the body to a small amount of bones. After this, a special processor grinds the remaining fragments into a powder, commonly known as “ashes”. The ashes are then transferred to either a temporary container or an urn provided by the family.

Where does the cremation process take place?

Cremation takes place in purpose-built facilities, known as Crematoriums. They are usually attached to cemeteries or funeral homes. The burning process occurs inside a cremation chamber or cremator which is a closed industrial furnace built to fit one human body. Inside the chamber temperatures reach between 800 and 1000 degrees Celsius. The heat causes the body to disintegrate to basic compounds of gas, ash and mineral fragments.

How is the body prepared for the cremation process?

It is a legal requirement in Australia that any body undergoing cremation must be placed into a coffin or casket beforehand. All crematoriums require the deceased to be cremated in a combustible, leak-proof, rigid and covered container. This is for occupational health and safety reasons and to allow for the dignified handling of human remains.

Before placing the coffin into the cremation chamber, any pieces of jewellery and other materials which could impact the cremation are removed. Combustible materials or mechanical devices can explode during the process while certain fabrics like leather, latex or vinyl can give off polluting fumes.

How long does a cremation take?

The average time for an adult cremation is 90 minutes at a temperature of between 800 and 1000 degree Celsius. From insertion to final cooling the cremation process may take up to four hours. Under Australian law cremations must occur within 48 hours of the funeral service. If cremation does not take place immediately the coffin is placed into a refrigerated holding room.

What happens to the ashes after a cremation takes place?

Most Crematoriums can have the packaged ashes ready for collection within 48 hours. They are placed into a sealed container or an urn provided by the family. Once the ashes are collected you can choose how you want to display them or if you want to scatter them in your loved ones’ favourite location.


Choosing how to preserve your loved ones remains can give you some sense of control during a period of overwhelming grief. These days you can opt for a traditional burial, a natural burial or burial at sea. But as time goes on more Australians are looking to cremation as their preferred method of disposing of a body.

Cremation offers people a chance to put their friends and family to rest in a dignified way without the high costs of a traditional burial. It also gives you a chance to honour your loved ones’ memory after the cremation takes place. Cremated ashes can be kept in a decorative urn or scattered in nature during a memorial service.

Say farewell to your loved ones with Safewill Cremations - the affordable, transparent and flexible way to say goodbye.

We offer cremation services in NSW's major cities and towns i.e Sydney, Coffs Harbour, Newcastle

Last updated 15th October 2021
Louise Ayling
Copywriter & Content Developer
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