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History of Funeral Services Qualifications in New Zealand

To begin to understand our present funeral services qualifications we need to take a look at our history and the development of education and training arising from the need to provide a service to individual families, our community and nation.

The climatic conditions in New Zealand, especially during the warmer months can mean a rapid deterioration of the deceased giving great concern and anxiety to the funeral director and families. Many attempts were made to overcome the problem. Using a metal-lined casket, sawdust was packed around the deceased, formalin was poured in and the coffin sealed by soldering. This was found to be a temporary measure. Coming out of North America and England was the knowledge of embalming. Some of our able and concerned funeral directors possessing the necessary foresight travelled to the U.K. and North America to obtain some knowledge and returned to set up schools throughout New Zealand to impart that knowledge. A number of funeral directors attended these schools and obtained a certificate known as a Temporary Preservation Certificate.

This mainly consisted of cavity embalming although some schools, especially in the later years, taught limited arterial embalming. Those schools were officially approved by the New Zealand Federation of Funeral Directors Inc. (NZFFD) on 24th June 1955. Messr E.G, Scrimshaw Ltd. (Hamilton), Messrs W.H, Tongue & Son Ltd. (Auckland), Messrs Watney Sibun Sons Ltd. (Auckland), later Lamb & Hayward (Christchurch) were approved. The NZFFD issued the certificates “Preservation and Presentation Certificate” to the successful candidates. This method provided assistance to funeral directors in coping with the problem of decomposition and presentation.

In the late 1950s, and early 60’s some younger funeral directors travelled overseas to attend training at colleges in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia. They obtained more advanced training in embalming. The North American qualification covered a wider range of subjects than did the British Institute of Embalming (BIE) curriculum in U.K. and Australia. Alan Irvine ran a class at the New Zealand College of Funeral Science to bring BIE members up to standard in areas of preservation and presentation, hence the beginning of our current programme and qualifications.

List of Qualifications

  • Certificate in Embalming (NZ ) – Cert. Emb. ( N.Z. Coll. Emb.)
  • Award in Funeral Directing – Award F.D.
  • Award in Embalming – Award Emb.
  • Certificate in Embalming – Cert. Emb.
  • Certificate in Funeral Services – Cert. F.S.
  • National Certificate in Funeral Directing – Nat. Cert. F.D.
  • National Certificate in Embalming – Nat. Cert. Emb.
  • National Diploma in Funeral Services – Nat. Dip. F.S.
  • National Diploma in Funeral Directing - Nat Dip FD (first awarded in 2010)
  • National Diploma in Embalming - Nat Dip Emb (first awarded in 2010)
  • New Zealand Diploma in Funeral Directing - NZ Dip FD (first awarded in 2016)
  • New Zealand Diploma in Embalming - NZ Dip Emb (first awarded in 2016)