Stillborn babies

A stillbirth is a traumatic and often unexpected outcome of pregnancy for the parents and their family. It is important for the parents to have an opportunity to grieve their loss and arranging a funeral may assist them at this sad time.

What is a stillborn baby?

A stillborn baby is defined as one that exhibits no respiration, heartbeat or other sign of life after birth, and:

(Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995, section 4).

Funeral of a stillborn baby

The law requires that stillborn babies be either cremated or buried. The procedures are:

Naming the baby

If the parents wish, they can give the baby a name; otherwise, ‘Baby’ is accepted as a given name. The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages issues birth certificates for stillborn babies.

Blessings and baptisms

Parents may want a stillborn baby to be blessed or baptised. They may also want to do this if the baby is seriously ill and certain to die. Parents will be given a baptismal certificate.

Burial or cremation

Parents can choose either a burial or cremation. Different cemeteries provide different facilities.

Documents required for cremation

The following documents are required before the cremation of a stillborn baby:

Documents required for burial

The following documents are required for the burial of a stillborn baby:

Arranging the ceremony

Some cemeteries have special graves for stillborn babies, such as individual lawn graves. A small bronze plaque is usually provided. Parents can decide whether or not they will attend the funeral. As a guide an unattended burial costs about $1500. An unattended cremation costs about $950.

In situations where the parents or relatives cannot afford a funeral, the hospital where the baby died will arrange a destitute funeral with the government contractor. A Baby Bonus sum payment of $5437 is available through Centrelink, and is paid for each child born, including stillborn children. This will assist parents with funeral costs.

Counselling and support

Social workers are available in major public hospitals to provide emotional support and practical help to parents. Local community health centres can be also be contacted for help or for a referral to other sources of support. SIDS and Kids NSW hold regular group and individual support meetings. The organisation also provides information and gives telephone advice.


Although not legally required, some parents may want to arrange a burial or cremation for their miscarriage.

For a cremation or burial in a cemetery, parents must engage a funeral director. This will incur costs. Parents can choose to conduct a burial on private land without engaging a funeral director. However, parents must be advised to comply with regulations as set out in NSW Health PD2005_341.

This states that burial:

Documents required

The following documents are required:

Rest Assured: a Legal Guide to Wills, Estates and Funerals in New South Wales, 5th edition, by Rosemary Long and Trudy Coffey. Published by The Federation Press, 2011.

Online edition published by the Legal Information Access Centre, State Library of NSW.  The online version has been updated to reflect changes to the law. Last updated October 2014.

© Library Council of New South Wales, 2011. 

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