The Coroner's Court hides many secrets.

The NSW Coroner deals with cases that are usually quite sensitive, and so the transcript of cases and the findings are not easily obtained.  Unfortunately I have two coroner's cases quite close to me in the family.  One was my father's, where I was the Senior Next of Kin, so I was actually at the court and have copies of all the information.

The other was my Uncle who died in 1978.  So what is the definition of Senior Next of Kin? The Coroners Act is quite specific about this:

(a) the deceased person’s spouse, or
(b) if the deceased person did not have a spouse or a spouse is not available-any of the deceased person’s children who are adults, or
(c) if the deceased person did not have a spouse or child or a spouse or child is not available-either of the deceased person’s parents, or
(d) if the deceased person did not have a spouse, child or living parent or a spouse, child or parent is not available-any of the deceased person’s brothers or sisters who are adults, or
(e) if the deceased person did not have a spouse, child, living parent, brother or sister or a spouse, child, parent, brother or sister is not available:
(i) any person who is named as an executor in the deceased person’s will, or
(ii) any person who was the deceased person’s legal personal representative immediately before the deceased person’s death.
(2) A coroner may treat a person who was a deceased person’s legal personal representative immediately before the deceased person’s death as the deceased person’s  senior next of kin  for the purposes of this Act if the coroner is satisfied that the person who is available to act as  senior next of kin  is unable to do so.
 The role of Senior Next of Kin is important in this context, as coroners reports are only available between 1796-1963, with the online index only to 1824 from the NSW Archives

For information on inquests after 1963 you must make a written request directly to the coroners office.  Here is what the restrictions are:

 The law imposes strict limitations on the release of coronial documents because these documents contain highly sensitive and very personal information. Information can only be released if it can be established that the person seeking the documents has an appropriate interest in the information.

The Senior Next-of-Kin can receive any documents on file free of charge by sending in a written request to the Court. If the senior next-of-kin wants any of the documents not to be sent out to anyone else, they must also indicate this in writing to the Court as soon as possible.

An immediate family member (who is not the senior next-of-kin), would be considered to have an appropriate interest and would be able to receive documents on payment of the appropriate fee. If you are a family member, we will ask for proof of your link with the deceased, such as birth certificate, marriage certificate, or any other documents which can prove this.

 For me, the senior next of kin would be my elderly Aunt, and she would be unable to make the necessary application, so I am applying as the family historian for some of the documents.  As I have been to an inquest and understand the nature of them very well I am quite aware of the sensitivity of the information that will be in the documents.  In my Uncle's case I am more aware than most of my family I think.  They are quite sensitive and will not be able to be made public, even to some of the family.  Criptic - but my uncle was not a nice person and most of the family are not aware of his activities.

As the family historian, I believe they should be recorded.  It does pose some moral questions however, and I have thought over this for a long time.  I have waited until my father and mother are both deceased, and the rest of my Uncle's brothers and sisters (with the exception of my Aunt who I will not give the information).  As my Uncle had no children or wife this was not a consideration.  If he had, I think my decision would have been quite different.  Sometimes as a family historian you face these questions, and we all have to make the decisions that are right for us and our families.  One thing to consider however, is that this type of document will eventually be public knowledge - the only question is when.

I hope my application is successful, it will be interesting to see.



  1. Having just hosted a panel session on "Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy" on the #UTPCruisse I found this and your case interesting. There are so many issues to consider when dealing with such information.

    Best of luck with your application.


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