Melbourne was long ranked the World’s Most Liveable City. But in 2018 this title was lost to Vienna. Faced with an ageing population, the impending certainty of 'peak death' will be upon us in a few short years.
As members of the Baby Boomer generation get old and die, pressures on the public, private, community and family systems that overlap in end of life care and decision-making will force massive changes, as will the growing financial power and expectation of choice that Boomers wield.
How can we — government, medical practitioners, corporations, citizens and designers — create the ideal spaces and places for dying well with choice, respect and dignity? What could happen in Melbourne over the next three decades that would see it become
The World’s Most Deathable City
Daughters farewell Victoria's first person to access assisted dying
Kerry Robertson was in bed and holding her two daughters' hands, David Bowie's rendition of Sorrow playing softly in the background, when she took her final breath. The first person in Victoria to be granted a permit to end her life under the state's new voluntary assisted dying laws. "The last words she said to us were 'I love you'," her daughter said.
'A damning indictment': Aged Care Royal Commission hands in final report
The big players in the aged care sector will be shaking in their boots as The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety's full list of recommendations are revealed in its final report. The report is being described as a damning indictment by activist groups, witnesses and families of victims of those who suffered and died while under inadequate or negligent care. The government has baulked at fully implementing a suggested crackdown, claiming it would harm competition. The opposition, however, said if elected it will implement all the recommendations in full, setting up a political fight going into the next election.
A new kind of ashes now welcome at the MCG
After years of frustration at finding scattered cremated remains on the hallowed MCG turf, the Melbourne Cricket Club and AFL are launching a joint memorial garden where deceased sports fans can have their ashes scattered — for a fee.
Shocking Four Corners episode reveals funeral industry rort
Mass outrage and calls for political action have followed the airing of an episode of Four Corners detailing shocking practices and predatory behaviour by religious and funeral industry service providers. Caring for dead bodies has been likened to a conveyer-belt system by industry critics, who say that the industrialisation of grief has gone too far.
DIY death advocates take to the streets
Amid death industry scandals, the Boomers are getting angry. The 2030s is the decade Australia experiences what demographers call 'peak death' — the point at which the number of deaths proportional to the population hits its highest point, due to the Baby Boomer generation reaching the average lifespan. Activists from all generations are calling for reform to laws that protect the industrialised, consolidated funeral industry from competition. They say government action is needed to allow for more choice and control over how bodies are disposed and people are memorialised in Victoria.
Death education introduced to Victorian high schools
From next year the year 7 curriculum in Victorian schools will include education on dying and death.
Workplace regulator recommends death sensitivity training
Grief sensitivity training could be coming to your workplace, if new recommendations from WorkSafe Victoria are adopted. The workplace health and safety regulator already provides guidance on a variety of issues relating to stress and mental health. Psychologists say it's a good first step, the next being the addition of specific bereavement leave under the national Fair Work Act.
Voluntary assisted dying makes TV debut on Neighbours
Australia's longest running TV show, Neighbours, has shown the first depiction of voluntary assisted dying, with beloved character Jarrod 'Toadfish' Rebecchi saying an emotional farewell to onscreen loved ones.
30% of interments are now 'green'
Environmentally friendly burials are now one of the most popular choices of interment among Australians, with fewer people opting for traditional burials and cremations which each have significant carbon footprints. Victoria now has more than 80 green burial sites, compared to the handful that existed 10 years ago.
Australian first: living library connects old with young
Australia's first 'living library' is open for business in regional Victoria, allowing primary school students to learn from their elders. The pilot program sees school kids visit aged care facilities to interact with residents.
Death literacy advocates celebrate milestone adoption of wills
50% of Victorians now have a legal will, with death literacy advocates calling on greater awareness and action by government. 100,000 people have received support through the Free Will program from Victoria Legal Aid as part of a government effort to reduce the pressure on courts dealing with estate disputes.
Legislative overhaul coming amid fallout from funeral industry scandals
Reforms to the laws governing human remains are set to be tabled in parliament next week. The proposed changes come at the end of a decade of funeral industry scandals, and an extensive period of codesign with communities. Changes to the Human Tissue Act could literally redefine death, and advocates say reforms to the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act will empower people with more control over their post-death destiny.
Funding increase for grief hotlines applauded by medical community
Top medical and psychological practitioners have welcomed a big increase in funding for phone and text counselling services. This will see thousands more trained staff helping people deal with the struggles of caring for a loved one who is dying, or the stress and grief after a death.
Start-up hub dedicated to death tech welcomes first cohort of innovators
Investors are seizing on the final opportunity. Venture capitalists have invested $2.4 billion in new opportunities driven by the ageing population and the growing demands for consumer choice over how people die and are buried. The new startup hub's first cohort includes a DIY online memorial app, a pop up experience to debut at the Queen Victoria Market and a holographic funeral entertainment streaming service.
Controversial video game debuts at PAX
Politicians and pundits are divided over a controversial new game that simulates near death experiences. Fans say it's the ultimate thrill, a psychologist has praised its potential as exposure therapy, but critics claim the makers of the game have gone too far.
Tourism Victoria's latest campaign targets Boomers as the 'bucket list' city
100s of thousands of 70-80 year olds are being invited to tick off items on their bucket list by Victoria's peak tourism body. The government says Victoria's smart and accessible infrastructure allows greater mobility and safety for octagenarian thrillseekers.
Welcome to peak death
The number of deaths proportionate to the population has hit the highest level in Australia's recorded history and will plateau from now until the end of the century. Known by researchers and demographers as 'peak death', the peak in the trend line mirrors the spike in births following World War Two that gave the Baby Boomer generation its name.
Death coach industry scandal prompts regulatory review
Backbenchers are calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the unregulated death advice industry after the state coroner's office noted a disturbing spike in accidental deaths involving third parties without proper qualifications.
First outdoor funeral held in Federation Square
A Melbourne grandmother has donated her funeral to the public with an open-casket service in Federation Square. Recent law reforms opened the way for death-related events in public spaces, and this is believed to be the city centre's first open air funeral. The State Government-owned trust that operates Federation Square said the event was a huge success that drew thousands of visitors and boosted local business.
'Ministry of Death': unique cabinet position a sign of the times
After public outcry, a coronial inquest, and a parlimentary inquiry, the Premier has formally announced plans to add a brand new minister responsible for a dedicated policy area.
City of Melbourne launches 'Smart Ways to Die' ad campaign
Melbourne is the latest local government to capitalise on the death liberalisation trend seen in Victoria in recent decades. It's latest campaign 'Smart Ways to Die', harks back to the vintage Metro Trains' 'Dumb Ways to Die' campaign and the catchy jingle that older readers will now be trying to get out of their heads.
An iconic send off for an iconic Australian
The state funeral of beloved Australian musician and statesman Nick Cave has drawn millions of mourners as the casket was taken slowly along Bourke Street on the 86 tram.
Funeral duopoly finally keels over
After decades of pressure from disruption and changing consumer preferences, the two largest funeral corporations are admitting defeat as their combined market share drops to an all-time low. Until the 20s, the death industry had been seen as highly predictable, with low risks and high margins. But advances in technology, diversification due to improved regulation and changes in how people want to be celebrated and disposed of, have brought the two giants to their knees.
Tears of joy and remembrance at inaugural Melbourne Day of the Dead
The new festival builds Melbourne's reputation as the most death-positive city in the world. The festival is the latest initiative by local and state government, who have worked hard to build the brand image of a cultural destination that embraces talking about death and seeing it as part of life.
Life and death: together at last
A local government in Melbourne's western suburbs has broken ground on a new sustainable living and dying village. The investment follows a push from community organisations that champion sustainable, small and integrated urban planning. The village will house open cemetery grounds that double as park space, community gardens, charging stations for vehicles and a cross-generational care facility.
End of family violence related deaths in sight
After decades of public awareness campaigning, behaviour-change initiatives, coronial recommendations and law reform, the Department of Health has released the latest figures on family violence. These figures show that efforts have been successful and the end of family related violence deaths is in sight.
Cultural/religious leaders and secular death carers come together on best practices for healing
Community conversation hubs are popping up around Victoria as part of a crosscultural and interfaith effort to increase death literacy and the sharing of best practice in after-death and grief care.
100-year-old baby! First Boomer celebrates centenary
The first member of the Baby Boomer generation to turn 100 says says that longevity is 'all about the cake'.
Melbourne commemorates 10 years since last car-related death
The victim of the last car-related death in metropolitan Melbourne was remembered today, 10 years on from the freak accident that claimed their life. A TAC spokesperson says the eradication of car-related deaths was a landmark achievement after the roadtoll's recorded peak in 1989, two years after the TAC began collecting data.
Melbourne awarded the inaugural title of World's Most Deathable City
After decades of promoting death literacy and hundreds of death-related initiatives, Melbourne is the first city to claim the title of The World's Most Deathable City. The rankings recognise Melbourne's high freedom of choice, affordability, its competitive and innovation memorialisation industry, and its low rate of sudden and accidental deaths. The Premier and Lord Mayor posted a joint statement on MySpace this morning, celebrating the recognition. Singapore came in second place.
Hi, we're Portable.
We're a research, design and technology company from Melbourne, Australia, that seeks out areas of social need and policy failure to make transformational change.
Our R&D project into the user experience of death and ageing in Australia began in 2017. It draws on the principles of human-centred and speculative design. Hundreds of people have contributed to this effort, including people from the medical, legal, academic, government and business communities, as well as everyday citizens, with a shared vision of a future with knowledge, choice and dignity for people who are ageing and dying and for those that survive them.
But this project isn't finished!
Find out more by:
Downloading our report 'The Future of Death and Ageing'
Watching our 'Most Deathable City' workshop at Melbourne Knowledge Week 2019
Emailing our team or becoming part of our advisory committee at firstname.lastname@example.org