A tour of the new Mountain View Crematoria at Unanderra

On Friday, the Mountain View Crematoria at Unanderra in NSW had its 150th cremation since the facility started operation in February. 

Prior to Saturday’s official opening, Parsons Group general manager Brian Hood and Mountain View Crematoria operations manager Julie Geraedts gave the Illawarra Mercury a guided tour of how the site operates. 

Mr Hood said when a hearse containing the deceased arrived after the funeral service, the initial task was to check the appropriate paperwork against the identifications on the coffin. 

Operator Dirk Goldhahn with the cremator at Mountain View Crematoria. Pictures: Robert Peet

Operator Dirk Goldhahn with the cremator at Mountain View Crematoria. Pictures: Robert Peet

“Once they’ve been signed in, assuming it could be the first cremation for the day, the operator would bring the coffin through and load the coffin directly onto a device called the charge bier,” he said. 

“This is an automated device that moves left to right. If there’s already a deceased in the cremator, then the second coffin would be loaded into the coolroom.

“The nameplate on the coffin is the identification for that person. So the nameplate would be removed from the coffin and placed on the door. 

“So at that point the cremation unit is now up to temperature… The door would open, the charge bier aligns itself to the front of the door, and the motorised rollers insert the coffin inside the cremator.” 

Metal orthotics that have been extracted from the cremains after the cremation process at the Unanderra site. According to management, they are disposed of and recycled in "an appropriate manner". Picture: Robert Peet

Metal orthotics that have been extracted from the cremains after the cremation process at the Unanderra site. According to management, they are disposed of and recycled in "an appropriate manner". Picture: Robert Peet

Ms Geraedts said from there the cremation process was gauged via computer in the operator’s office, including monitoring of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. 

Ms Geraedts said the gas-fired ‘Joule’ cremator features two burning chambers as opposed to the usual one. 

The machine runs at about 900 degrees. 

It is fitted with a protective water shield, so when the door opens there is protection for the operator. 

Facts and figures:

  • Mountain View Crematoria has one of Australia’s largest cremators, able to accept sizes of up to 2900mm in length, a width of 1000mm and height of 700mm. 
  • On a typical work day, they can process about six bodies. Only one deceased is ever cremated at a time – no matter how small. 
  • The average cremation takes about 75 minutes to complete. 
  • Mr Hood said there were no issues with relation to odours or smoke emanating from the top of the machine’s flue stack, due to the dual chamber design’s combustion and filtering system.
  • The use of the term ashes is misleading. “This is because cremated remains (cremains) do not resemble ash at all,” Ms Geraedts said. “They are skeletal remains of the loved one, which are provided back to the family.”
  • The average cremains weigh three to 3.2kg, or equivalent to three to four litres.
  • It is estimated that more than 10,000 PVC containers holding loved ones are still held in cupboards and homes in the Illawarra. 
  • Ms Geraedts said they needed medical sign off that there is not a pacemaker in the deceased prior to cremation, as they would damage the equipment.  
  • The family are able to collect the cremains 24 hours after the process concludes, if required.