Recently, CCANSW wrote to the Australian Standards Technical Committee for “AS 4204 – Headstone and cemetery monuments” seeking clarification of a number of definitions in the Standard after a number of issues were raised by a member.  The measurement of the “overall height of the headstone” was of particular concern as our member had encountered some debate about the correct method.  Noting that the height of the headstone determines the size of the dowels used - a critical safety feature of modern monuments – we urge Operators to review the following and consult with Masons working in your sites to ensure that everyone is on the same page on these matters.

A summary of all the queries raised is listed below along with the corresponding page in the AS 4204 document (if applicable).

  1. How is the “overall height to apex” of a headstone measured? (Table 3 on page 15)
  1. What does “freestanding” means in relation to the term “freestanding headstone”? ( – Scope on page 16 and Table 1 – Note 3 – on page 8)
  1. Are there any provisions/modifications for “removable headstones” when considering the installation of monuments on graves where multiple interments are possible and subsequent inscriptions are likely?
  1. What is the minimum thickness of the “base” or “sub-base”? (Table 1 on page 8)
  1. Is a “backstone” the same thing as a “back kerb”? (Figure 1 on page 5 and Table 1 on page 8)
  1. Is a “base” or “sub-base” equivalent to a “back kerb”? (Figure 1 on page 5 and Table 1  - Note 2 on page 8)

We hope the below information clarifies some important matters in relation to AS 4204 – Headstone and cemetery monuments 


The BD-071 committee members involved in the drafting of AS 4204 have met, reviewed the letter attached, and have provided the following responses to the queries from the CCANSW.

In addition to the responses from the committee outlined above, the following has also been provided:

The standard sets out a known method of construction that prevents toppling due to foreseeable inadvertent action such as a child swinging on the headstone or an adult leaning or otherwise seeking support from a monuments. This also resists most efforts to cause deliberate damage.

The height limitation limits the leverage that can be imposed by the force that most individuals can apply.

These constraints cannot prevent all damage.

There are provisions requiring long dowels to ensure that if there is damage then the headstone does not topple suddenly. The dowels bend slowly in a controlled manner. Bigger diameter dowels do NOT provide a better outcome. This controls the risk of crushing injuries in the event that sufficient force is applied to 'break' the monument.

The standard gives a 'deemed to satisfy' solution that fits the great majority of cemetery monument types produced by masons across Australia. But it cannot cover every case. There is design guidance as to forces that should be considered for nonstandard solutions.

The standard does not say monuments that exceed the height or are of a different form are not allowed. Masons who have customers seeking monuments that differ from the standard should have their design checked for compliance with the standard. by an engineer registered on the national engineers register as a structural or civil engineer.


  Standards Australia
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