Moree funeral directors work with families to comply with new funeral restrictions

SAD SITUATION: Logan Funerals Moree funeral director Angela Kelso is trying to work with families to comply with the new 10-person limit at funerals.
SAD SITUATION: Logan Funerals Moree funeral director Angela Kelso is trying to work with families to comply with the new 10-person limit at funerals.

The death of a loved one is difficult at the best of times, but in the current coronavirus pandemic when social distancing is now a part of our lives for the foreseeable future, it is even more heartbreaking.

And since the federal government introduced new rules restricting the number of people at a funeral to 10, it's even tougher for families currently planning to say goodbye.

"It's extremely difficult," Logan Funerals Moree funeral director Angela Kelso said.

"Yes, it's something that has to be in place, but it's extremely difficult for families.

"Families aren't having the proper opportunity to say goodbye, particularly the Indigenous community which has large families. It's very upsetting for those families.

"Families are very sad and distressed that they're not giving their loved ones the send-off that they want to."

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Logan Funerals is currently focussed on trying to work with families to comply with these new rules, while also maintaining the required four-square-metre-per-person rule and social distancing practices.

This means from now until the foreseeable future, there will be no church services, with graveside-only funerals to be held with only 10 people in attendance, including a funeral director and assistant.

"That means only eight family members can attend," Ms Kelso said.

"Trying to pick eight immediate family members is very difficult. How do you do that? How do you say, only you guys are coming? I wouldn't want to do it for my own family."

On Thursday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that states would have the discretion to allow extra people to attend funerals on a case-by-case basis, but that means only one or two additional family members would be allowed to attend under special circumstances.

Ms Kelso said funeral directors will be wearing gloves and masks as a requirement during funerals, while chairs will be spread out and set up further from the graveside than they normally would be.

"At a funeral, personal contact is a big thing," she said.

"But there can be none of that.

"Looking after everyone's welfare and wellbeing is at the forefront of our minds.

"Our hearts are breaking that we can't offer a full service that we would normally offer. We'll try and give families as much support as possible, but they'll also have to work with us during these circumstances."

Ms Kelso is currently working with three families on upcoming funerals.

One, to be held on Friday, will see family members and friends pay their respects from the perimeter of the cemetery, while still maintaining social distancing rules.

"That's the least we can do, so they can still see what's happening and be there," she said.

Logan Funerals is also offering families the option of live streaming funerals via private Facebook groups, or recording the funeral to allow people the opportunity to grieve, say goodbye and pay their respects to the person who has passed, even if it isn't in person.

"It helps people be included and not miss out," Ms Kelso said.

"But apart from that there's no other options.

"It's a hard job at the best of times. I hope the community are patient and know we are following the guidelines and trying to help them as best as we can.

"It's a sad situation."

And while the current restrictions are tough, Ms Kelso fears what a total lockdown would mean for funerals; "it would be devastating".

In the meantime, local police will be monitoring services to ensure everyone adheres to the new measures, which are intended to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"We ask that people grieve and pay respect to their family member or loved one but to do it in a way that complies with the legislation," Moree Police officer-in-charge Inspector Martin Burke said.

"Social distancing rules still apply. The last thing police want to do is issue infringement notices for people who don't comply with these rules. Their actions can also bring funeral directors into jeopardy, so please have respect.

"If anyone has any questions, we're happy to answer them."