Giving funerals a unique slant

Erin Erceg has been surrounded by death and grieving families for most of her life but the 29-year-old funeral director is quick to dispel the notion that her industry is depressing.

Instead, she believes the often misunderstood profession is an extremely rewarding one.

"The reward you get from being able to help a family at such a difficult time is amazing," she said. "We are storytellers.

"There is a huge amount of passion, humour and support in the industry."

When she was six, her father Steve started the funeral com- pany Seasons Funerals and by 20, she was working as a mortician.

Ms Erceg is a company director and on a mission to shake up the funeral industry.

"Floating funerals" down the Swan River and funeral photography are among the services offered, while an Ophelia- inspired billboard featuring Ms Erceg lying on a bed of flowers is capturing attention outside the business' Balcatta parlour.

Ms Erceg is the first to admit she is not a stereotypical funeral director.

"I believe in innovation," she said. "There is a lot of room for innovation in our industry and I'm determined to uncover every little bit.

"I see an opportunity for us to break tradition and while that's not what everybody wants, people don't always want a cookie-cutter format."

Funerals she has arranged include a service held at a football club, where guests wore football scarves and the hearse did a lap around the oval before driving through the goals to the sound of the ground's sirens.

A coffin adorned with a light sabre, accompanied by Star Wars theme music and a plane flying a "May The Force Be With You" banner, was another special moment.

Ms Erceg said there was a trend towards more original funerals.

"It can be bold or simple, as long as it reflects the character," she said.

Some services, especially children's funerals, were extremely difficult and Ms Erceg said she found it hard not to get emotionally affected.

"To get through it, you have to remind yourself that you haven't lost anyone - that although you feel compassion and empathy for the families of the deceased, the grief isn't yours," she said.

The company tried a "floating funeral" along the Swan River last year and in what is believed to be an Australian first, families can hold a funeral service or wake aboard the Crystal Swan.

Part of the new billboard.