A community of creative and compassionate individuals gather weekly at Ulverstone Community Shed on the North Coast of Tasmania to build coffins for themselves and their families.
Described as the makers of fine, affordable, underground furniture, coffin clubs have been popping up all over the world with the purpose of saving money, combatting loneliness and ultimately, rejoicing while building their own coffins
Lynne Jarvis, a voluntary palliative carer and the founder of The Community Coffin Club in Australia, was inspired by a similar concept in New Zealand, where an eclectic group of inventive and rebellious seniors dance and celebrate life, while making and decorating DIY coffins.
The New Zealand club began in 2010 when Katie Williams thought it would be a great idea to recognise people’s life journeys with a more personal farewell. Katie, who had no prior craftsmanship experience, approached a group of local handymen to help her build a coffin.
“The Coffin Club helps people feel useful, and it is very social. We have morning tea and lunch, and music blaring, and cuddles,” Katie told The Guardian.
More than 60 active members attend the New Zealand-based coffin club every week, to decorate their coffins exactly the way they like. One Coffin Clubber has decorated their coffin with a montage of Elvis Presley, while others have chosen landscapes or newspaper cuttings to decorate theirs.
The novelty of the Coffin Club attracted filmmaker Briar March to create a musical documentary on the unique community. In the film, every part is sung, danced, and performed by the Coffin Club members, who are attracting media attention and fans from all over the world.
Now that the coffin club concept has reached Australian shores, the community can get together to work creatively and address their end-of-life needs by building their coffins in a happy environment.
“The Community Coffin Club is a cheerful and supportive space where our values, equity of access and social inclusion, provide the base from which we operate” Lynne says.
The most popular coffin choice for members of the coffin club was inspired by a family from Campbell Town that chose to make their mother’s coffin out of recycled pallets. These pallets made from radiata pine, are free for the coffin club members to use.
All other materials need to be supplied by the members of the club, but Lynne allows the access to the space, equipment and a coffin design mentor for free.
“You've got to face death, so it's a lot easier if you've got the coffin ready," Russel Game, a club mentor, told ABC Australia.
Lynne is trying to promote coffin clubs to the rest of Australia. She says if anyone is interested in starting their own coffin club, they should identify the available resources in their town. For example, a community shed that has free access to equipment, a handyman or carpenter who is willing to be a mentor, and any financial support you may need.
She says that a coffin club is bound to make a positive impact to individuals themselves, and their communities.
Discover more on how to choose a coffin or casket on our Help & Resources pages.