It's distressing when a family member or friend dies, but when the death happens overseas this can be even more difficult.
During this time, consular staff will do what we can to help you. There are legal and practical limits to our help.
How the Australian Government can help
We provide consular services through our headquarters in Canberra, and through Australian embassies, high commissions and consulates overseas (missions). Our knowledge and understanding of the local environment can often help. However, we have to work within the legal and administrative processes of the foreign country.
If we're notified that Australians have died overseas, we may be able to:
- help you to understand the legal and administrative processes that apply in that country
- provide a list of local funeral directors and lawyers
- make the local funeral director aware of Australian quarantine regulations
- give you a list of translators if you can't find an English-speaking funeral service company
- give an estimate of cost for local burial, local cremation or transport back to Australia
- advise on how to transfer funds from Australia to meet any costs
- provide advice on managing media enquiries.
- recommend a specific funeral director or lawyer
- investigate the death of an Australian citizen
- interpret or translate documents
- give legal advice
- pay for or organise a burial or cremation,
- pay for or organise for the deceased and/or their belongings to return to Australia
- get involved in legal matters
- pay any outstanding debts.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
Contacting the nearest Australian mission
Local authorities will usually tell us when an Australian dies in their country. If you are travelling with someone who has died, please contact your closest Australian overseas mission.
Contact details are available at dfat.gov.au/missions. This page also lists some Canadian missions that will provide consular assistance to Australians.
Not all countries have an Australian or Canadian presence, but there is usually one in the region. We also have informal arrangements with other consular services to help Australians in need.
You can also call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre:
- +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
- 1300 555 135 in Australia
The Consular Emergency Centre can also transfer you to Lifeline telephone counselling services in Australia.
How travel insurers can help
If the deceased had travel insurance, these companies often have 24-hour helplines available from anywhere in the world. Contact them as soon as possible after someone has died.
Insurance companies will usually:
- provide a list of funeral directors in the foreign country
- provide advice on local funeral services
- cover costs
- take care of arrangements for a local funeral service or the return of the deceased to Australia.
You don’t need to travel overseas to make funeral arrangements. We can put you in touch with funeral directors overseas. They'll need to work with Australian funeral directors if you wish to return your loved one to Australia. The funeral director will consult you and make every effort to meet your wishes and those of the deceased.
In some cases, local conditions may require quick decisions to be made. Local authorities may also require an autopsy before issuing a death certificate.
Depending on the local regulations, it may take several weeks to bring someone’s remains home. This can be longer if an autopsy or coronial enquiry is needed to determine the cause of death.
The Australian Border Force has strict quarantine requirements for returning a deceased person to Australia. Your funeral director should be able to advise you on these requirements.
Getting a death certificate
A death is usually registered with local authorities in the country where the person died. Your funeral director will often be able to get the death certificate for you.
You may wish to register the death in Australia by contacting the registrar of births, deaths and marriages in your state or territory.
Personal belongings and estate
Local authorities will usually give any personal papers (such as passports and other identity documents) they are holding to either your funeral director, the nearest overseas mission, or directly to you. You will need to arrange for other personal belongings to be returned commercially.
We can’t help with finalising estates. You should raise any questions you have about estate matters either with a local lawyer or with local authorities directly.
Personal information provided to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is protected by law, including the Privacy Act 1988. We may collect, use and disclose personal information, including to overseas recipients where we reasonably believe it is necessary, to provide consular assistance. Important information about the privacy of personal information is contained in our Consular Privacy Collection Statement which is available at smartraveller.gov.au/privacy#statement.
This information has been prepared carefully. However, the Australian Government can't be held responsible if the information here leads to injury, loss or damage of any sort. 'Australian Government' includes employees, agents, and diplomatic and consular staff overseas.
Consular and Crisis Management Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, RG Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent BARTON ACT 0221
Tel. (02) 6261 3305; 1300 555 135
Travel advice is available from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Smartraveller website smartraveller.gov.au.