Call for a caring solution to last rites

GENTLY immersing the ashes of a loved one into clean, flowing water is how thousands of people in the Parramatta region practice funeral rites.

But when Sarbjet Thind's mother died earlier this year, confusion about where he could lay her ashes to rest added anxiety to the period of mourning.

"That was a time after she had passed away and we were trying to find a place where we could immerse the ashes because that is our religion," the practicing Sikh said.

"The advice we got at the time was that it was fine but no one would put it in writing that we were allowed.

"The problem was we were grieving so we found it very difficult.

"If we went somewhere then got caught by police who said we did it wrong . . . it would be horrible."

The immersion of ashes is practiced as a last rite by Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists, of which there were about 35,000 in the Parramatta and Holroyd council areas at the time of the 2011 census.

Mr Thind, of North Parramatta, asked Parramatta Council what its policy was regarding the funeral rites but said he did not get a definitive answer.

Federal MP Julie Owens then wrote to the Environmental Protection Authority to ask where it allowed funeral ashes to be released into waterways.

A response from the authority's chair and chief executive Barry Buffier said there was no specific regulation of the practice.

But in the void of regulation is a lack of information.

Mr Thind and others from the Sikh community have called for specific sites to be designated by local governments so there is no confusion for grieving families or authorities.

Ms Owens also called on the council to work with local religious groups to develop a policy.

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