Australian Ways of Death by Patricia Jalland

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By Patricia Jalland

This publication examines the place and the way humans have died in Australia; how they've been buried, mourned, and venerated; and the way social and local components have encouraged mortality premiums and people's recognition of loss of life and loss.

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Pulmonary tuberculosis, known as phthisis or consumption, was a destructive disease emanating from mass poverty, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions. 31 It may be assumed that Aboriginal people were not infected with tuberculosis before the arrival of Europeans. Significantly, the history of European mortality in Australia began with the consumptive death of a sailor, Forby Sutherland, from the Endeavour crew during Captain Cook’s first voyage. 32 Australian death rates were still rising while those in Britain were already falling, adding to confusion about causes and prevention of the disease.

Despite the Waugh family’s loss, Manning stressed their spiritual gain of a good Christian death, even though they were Presbyterians with ‘peculiar’ rituals: FAITH, FEVER, AND CONSUMPTION 39 She seems to have been well prepared for her awful change, having long kept her ‘house in order’ in the full expectation of a speedy dissolution … Her imprisoned spirit has taken its flight to regions of bliss, where it already joins in the songs of everlasting adoration and praise at the Redeemer’s feet.

He noted that the captain had ordered the carpenter to make a coffin at the wish of the elderly bereaved parents, instead of the usual blanket and canvas shroud. ’ She was speedily removed from her coffin while the doctors checked that there was no sign of life before she was finally ‘nailed down’. This episode is a reminder that the common fear of burial alive applied as much at sea as for an earth burial. All the cabin passengers dressed in black for a Presbyterian form of the funeral service read by the uncouth Independent missionary Dr Ross.

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