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After the death

Coronial process

The time directly following and in the weeks after the death can be a blur.
It’s common for families to forget what has been said to them or the recommended steps for their family. 

This page aims to provide you with a bit more information about the coronial process.


A postmortem (also known as an autopsy) is a procedure performed by a doctor called a forensic pathologist to try and identify the medical cause of death. This procedure is quite specialised and may require transport of the deceased person to a major city. 

Preliminary postmortem report

Forensic pathologists may produce a preliminary report after the postmortem. Usually, additional tests are ordered to look for other causes of death. Some results can take months to come back. Until these results are received, the preliminary postmortem report is the cause of death based on information gained only from the postmortem. Depending on the state, preliminary reports may be verbal, in that you will receive an update over the phone but not always in writing.

Final postmortem report

The final postmortem report is issued once all the outstanding blood/tissue test results have been received and the forensic pathologist makes their final conclusion about the cause of death. The final postmortem report can take up to a year to be finalised but this time period varies state to state. 


Family and/or next of kin can request a copy of the final postmortem report. How to request a copy of the postmortem differs state by state. More information on how to access a copy of the report can be found using the links above for your state coroner.

Families often find it difficult to read the postmortem report

The report contains a lot of clinical information but leaves out the wonderful attributes of the person, e.g. that they liked the outdoors or were training to be a teacher or a plumber.

Some families find it easier to take the postmortem report to their GP and have them give a high level summary, rather than read it themselves. The GP can then arrange the appropriate referrals.

Coroners are in charge of investigating unexpected or sudden death. Coroners are located in each Australian state and territory. A death must be reported to the Coroner in particular circumstances. You can find out more about when a death must be reported to the coroner on the websites below (based on your location).  

After reviewing evidence from the police reports etc. a Coroner may decide that an inquest is needed. The rules of when an inquest occurs can also differ from state to state. The family will usually receive a letter if an inquest is required.

More information on the Coroner’s Court for each state can be found below:

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