Australian Mortality Through the Years


A company with a 120-year history of service to the community, during one of life’s most testing situations, is also certain to be a witness to marked transformations in the way that society meets that challenge.

The practical and personalised assistance offered by WN Bull Funerals has evolved to reflect changing cultural attitudes to death, and the way that death itself has changed.

Life Expectancy chart 1890 vs 2009

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has compiled data which highlights some of the factors which shaped society’s approach to bereavement in the past. For example, in 1890, just two years before the founding of WN Bull, a newborn boy’s life expectancy was only 47 years, while that of a baby girl was about 51 years.

Yet even those who survived until what was, for the times, an advanced age, were fortunate. In 1901, 10% of babies born in Australia failed to reach their first birthday, a bleak statistic that is difficult to comprehend in modern times.

The current infant mortality rate is 0.4%, in other words about four deaths per thousand live births.

Improved health care and sanitation, higher levels of nutrition, and medical advances including immunisation and the suppression of infectious and parasitic diseases have all contributed to longer and healthier lives.

This has led to a conspicuous reduction in the number of funerals for infants and for people at a stage of life now considered to be vigorous middle age. Between 1901 and 2010 the proportion of Australians aged 65 years and older rose from four per cent to 13.5 percent, and by 2041 this is expected to increase to more than 21 per cent.

The celebration of a life well-lived and filled with treasured memories shines through the grief of the majority of 21st century funerals. Though the loss is no less keenly felt, it is not as often overlaid with the anguish generated by a much too early departure.

The early records of WN Bull bear witness to the extent to which families had to cope with the death of infants and of parents who were still heavily involved in supporting or caring for their children. Such tragedies are now encountered far less frequently. Yet families still need the help of professionals with compassion and a personal approach when planning a funeral.

The statistics may have been transformed, allowing funeral services to become a commemoration of an individual lifetime, as well as a shared expression of grief, but what has not changed in 120 years is the need for assistance in preparing a significant and dignified tribute to the person who has died.

WN Bull understood what was needed back in 1892, and will continue to provide service and support for grieving families in 2012 and beyond.