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State Funeral - Who is entitled to one?

Wed 23rd Mar 2022

State funerals don't happen all that often, and without doubt a very significant and special occasion, they come at a cost. Who covers the expenses of a state funeral? And who is eligible? We take a look.

State funerals or memorials serve as a national day of remembrance for the general public after the family of the deceased have given consent. The decision on who is eligible for a state funeral rests on the Prime Minister, Premier or Chief Minister on the day.


Commonwealth state funerals are offered to former or deceased high ranking government officials and prime ministers. Commonwealth state funerals can also be offered to prominent Australians who have given long and significant contributions to the nation.


Military state funerals are offered to former senior officers of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Sometimes governors-general, prime ministers and state officials who have served in the military might also be offered a military state funeral.

Military state funerals were offered to the last World War I veterans in the early years of the 21st century. A Commonwealth military state funeral was given to the Unknown Soldier on 11 November 1993, on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Great War.

Who pays for a state funeral?

Expenses from a Commonwealth state funeral are funded by the federal government and state funerals are funded by state and territory governments. Sometimes they might be organised in partnership with each other - Shane Warne for example. Prime Minister, Scott Morrison said in a statement that the former Australian cricketer's state funeral will be organised in 'consultation with the Warne family, Cricket Australia and the Victorian and Federal Government'.

First State Funeral

The first Australian state funeral honoured explorers Robert Burke and William Wills in Victoria 1863. Following their deaths on an expedition to cross Australia south to north, their bodies were recovered and re-buried in Melbourne. Two weeks before their funeral, 40,000 people followed the horses and military guards of honour as their bodies made their way to Melbourne General Cemetery.

Following the death of Australian explorer, author and politician William Wentworth in England in 1872, his body was sent back to Australia as were his wishes. Wentworth was the first state funeral held in New South Wales.

Funeral vs Memorial

A funeral traditionally has the deceased person present during the service, whereas a memorial they are not.

State Funeral Tributes


New South Wales

  • Slim Dusty AO MBE, country music singer-songwriter and producer, 2003.
  • Bernie Banton, asbestos campaigner for victims who worked for James Hardie, 2007.
  • Uncle Lyall Munro Senior, land-rights leader and campaigner for the rights and equality of Aboroginal people in NSW, 2020.
  • Carla Zampatti AC, devoted a life to fashion, arts and creativity, 2021.
  • Eddie Jaku OAM, survivor of the Holocasut and founding member Sydney Jewish Museum, 2021.


  • Neville Bonner AO, former Liberal senator who gave his life's work and service to the Australian community, 1999.
  • Steve Irwin, a state funeral was offered in 2006, but with sincere thanks, the family declined.
  • Sir James Killen AC, KCMG, former long-serving federal Liberal MP and minister, 2007.


  • Ted Whitten OAM, Australian Rules football player, 1995.
  • Peter Brock AM, race-car driver, 2006.
  • Bert Newton AM MBE, beloved media entertainer, 2021.
  • Kimberley Kitching, Labor federal senator, 2022.
  • Shane Warne, Australian cricket legend, 2022.

South Australia

  • Russell Ebert OAM, Australian rules footballer and coach, 2021.
  • Vilmos 'Vili' Milisits OAM, Hungarian-born Australian baking icon, 2021.

Western Australia

  • Graham 'Polly' Farmer MBE, first WA footballer to receive a state funeral, 2019.
  • Rod Marsh MBE, cricket great, 2022.


  • Michael Hodgman AM, QC, Federal minister, 2013.
  • Peter Underwood AC, the 'people's governor', 2014.
  • Vanessa Goodwin, former Tasmanian attorney-general, 2018.

Northern Territory

  • Leigh Bruce 'Tracker' Tilmouth, Northern Territory Aboriginal activist, 2015.
  • John Ah Kit, the Northern Territory's first Indigenous cabinet minister, 2020.
  • Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM, film actress and prominent Indigenous rights campaigner, 2022.

Australian Capital Territory

  • Trevor Kaine, former ACT chief minister, 2008.
  • GG Michael Jeffery AC, CVO, MC, former Governor General and great Australian, 2020.
  • Sue Salthouse AM, disability advocate and 2020 Senior Australian of the Year, 2022.

By Kirsten Jakubenko

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