A Documentary


Produced with the assistance of the Adelaide Film Festival, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia Council for the Arts & Screen NSW.

Written & Directed by Lynette Wallworth   |   Produced by Kath Shelper   |   73 minutes

© 2024 Scarlett Pictures Pty Ltd, Lynette Wallworth and Adelaide Film Festival.



Set against the stunning backdrop of the industrial seaside town of Port Kembla, a feisty and resilient community group have determined to take back the responsibility that most of us leave to someone else – to care for their own dead. Scattered throughout are stories that cut to the core revealing why this small band have decided to take on a practice that for most is taboo. 

As their plans for community-based funerals gather momentum one of their own is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  TENDER is at once a heartbreakingly beautiful and beautifully funny glimpse of an extraordinary community taking on one of the most essential challenges of human life…its end.



Tender has received the following Awards:

 - 4th AACTA Award for Best Documentary Television Program presented by Foxtel Movies

- ATOM Award for Best Documentary (General Category)

- Grand Prize of the 12th edition of the FIFO/France Television Awards, Tahiti

Tender Funerals

Tender is a story that demanded a doco because it’s subject matter touches us all, eventually.

Tender is the story of one community teaching itself how to be as present in death as we have learnt to become in birth. They are not trained or equipped but they are willing to learn and what they learn they share throughout this film; during which one of their most loved members is diagnosed with lung cancer. As they struggle to take on the responsibility of end of life with dignity, humour and cost effectiveness, they do so with the imminent understanding that their friend Nigel is probably about to die. These two realities converge in Tender and they are a revelation in the power of community spirit.

Our film is the gift of the knowledge they gained and as such it is something we can all learn from. It is as funny as they are and as deep-hearted too. I didn’t know the community well when I began filming, I knew only my friend Jen, but I learnt to see why she loves them and why they, of all people, would grasp this nettle and hold on tight. And I came to know the very softly spoken Nigel who quietly placed himself at the heart of this film and let the camera keep rolling. He let us stay because he thought this subject mattered to everyone, and he was right. Tender is his legacy and our learning; his wish would be that its fire and incentive could bring about change.

- Lynette Wallworth


Since completing the film, the Port Kembla group have succeeded in setting up their fully functioning funeral service in the old fire station in Port Kembla, in their quest to offer an alternative funeral experience. The service is very successful and has aided so many people in their time of need. While there are many small, family-owned funeral homes in Australia, the largest multi-national company, InvoCare, is listed on the stock exchange. In the year of our production, its after-tax profit was $48.9 million dollars. InvoCare owns more than 220 funeral homes in Australia including Simplicity, Guardian and White Lady Funerals plus cemeteries and crematoria. Tender Funerals is a not-for-profit venture.



Lynette Wallworth is an Australian artist/filmmaker whose immersive video installations and film works reflect on the connections between people and the natural world, as well as exploring fragile human states of grace.  Her work uses immersive environments, interactive technologies with gestural interfaces and narrative long form film to engage with viewers.  Her most recent works include the feature documentary TENDER tracing the beginnings of a community-led funeral company and CORAL an immersive film for full-dome digital planetariums with an augmented reality companion work.

Wallworth’s work has been shown at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the American Museum of Natural History, New York; the Sundance Film Festival; the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne; the Smithsonian, Washington; Royal Observatory Greenwich for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad; Auckland Triennial; Adelaide Biennial; Brighton Festival and the Vienna Festival among many others.  Wallworth has been awarded an International Fellowship from Arts Council England, a New Media Arts Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts, the inaugural Australian Film, Television and Radio School Creative Fellowship in 2010 and the AIDC David and Joan Williams Documentary Fellowship in 2014.

"Occasionally you see an exhibition – and sometimes just one piece of work - that has that jaw dropping quality, that wow factor....All Wallworth’s works have that bit of wow about them."

- David Whetstone, The Journal, UK, March 2007

“There are still moments of transfiguration that come wholly unlooked for, as puncturing instants of experience...Such moments are to be found in Lynette Wallworth’s immersive installations, instants of shift that slip in under the guise of wonder, of grief, in intimate connection with another.”

- Jemima Kemp, Art Monthly Australia, May 2009

“Indelibly marked by the experience and suffused with a sense of possibility and hope in the face of suffering and loss, (Lynette’s) audiences leave with renewed purpose.”

- Ted Snell, ArtLink, Vol. 28


Kath Shelper is the producer of many award-winning films most noticeably, Samson & Delilah, which won the prestigious Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. Her new film with Warwick Thornton, The Darkside, is about Aboriginal ghost stories and screened at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival.

Kath produced Beck Cole’s debut feature, Here I Am, and her short film, Plains Empty (Sundance 2005), plus many short films including Green Bush (dir: Warwick Thornton, Best Panorama Short Film, Berlin Film Fest), Confessions Of A Headhunter (dir: Sally Riley, Best Short, Australian Film Institute Awards), Above The Dust Level (dir: Carla Drago, Best Comedy, Melbourne Film Festival), and House Taken Over (dir: Liz Hughes, nominated, Australian Film Institute Awards). She also produced the TV series, Bit Of Black Business, which included short films Nana (dir: Warwick Thornton, Crystal Bear, Berlin Film Fest), and Hush (dir: Dena Curtis, Audience Prize, Creteil Women’s Film Fest).

Kath also produced two chapters of The Turning feature film project (directors Warwick Thornton and Mia Wasikowska), and well as producing Warwick’s contribution to the Guillermo Arriaga omnibus, Words with Gods.

Port Kembla

Port Kembla Community Project Inc (PKCP) is a not-for-profit organisation that operates in the Port Kembla Community Centre set up to empower its local community with a variety of services that contribute to more sustainable living. Their ethos is to harness the skills, talents and diversity of its community by giving people the chance to be supported, to create and to participate fully in transformative living. Some of their services include non-interest loans for low-income earners, intergenerational unemployment reduction, and of course, the not-for-profit funeral service. This project is managed by Jenny Briscoe-Hough and a team of twelve dedicated staff, and an ongoing support network of Port Kembla volunteers. To find out more about the PKCP or to donate to their tireless cause, please visit their official website

“Our mission is to develop a contemporary funeral service using a social enterprise model. It will provide all aspects of a funeral service while supporting and empowering families and the community to participate as much as they choose in the process. Tender Funerals uses a people centred approach to provide a transparent, affordable, authentic service operating within a sustainable business model. We will focus on working with disadvantaged and Indigenous communities.

Our aim is to work with families, the community and palliative care to develop a model of continual care through each stage of the dying process including after death care. The project will seek to realign the care of our dead with the changing values of our culture. There is a desire within the community for a more sustainable, affordable and meaningful funeral practice, which builds communities of support and skill while facilitating an authentic experience. Tender Funerals will empower the community by developing an education program outlining rights and responsibilities in relation to death and dying in our culture.”

— PKCP, 2014


The Port Kembla Community Project  - information on their plans for Tender Funerals, the not-for-profit funeral service and natural burial ground. And a link to some great information about death and dying matters (scroll to end of page).

Advance Care Planning, Australia  - great information about starting the conversation now. In the ‘contacts and links’ section you will find a state-by-state listing of links to advanced health care plans and other information. What does an advance care plan look like?  Click to view a NSW appropriate example. 

The GroundSwell Project  - uses the arts to raise awareness and open up community conversations about aging, illness, death, dying and bereavement.

Natural Death Centre - a small passionate Australian non-profit that is part of the global wave of demystifying and reclaiming death. Zenith Virago who is featured in Tender is the founder and president.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation - Elisabeth was a hospice and palliative care pioneer, as well as author of 24 books including ‘On Death and Dying’ and ‘Wheel of Life’.

Palliative Care Australia - the peak body for palliative care throughout Australia.

Michael Barbato is a palliative care doctor and has written a number of books on caring for the dying.

CareSearch - an online source for palliative care information - providing free, useful resources for heath professionals and consumers.

The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement  -provides services for those working in, affected by, grief and bereavement.

InvoCare – an SMH overview article

Australian iPhone App – My Fantastic Funeral - put the fun back into funerals!

Government sites

For information on Australian legal issues including Power of Attorney, see below listed websites for each state. Type ‘power of attorney’ into the search window of the web page.

New South Wales

Northern Territory


South Australia


Victoria (and some more information here)

Western Australia

International sites

Natural Death Centre - the UK organisation that Zenith modeled the Australian version on.

Dying Matters - a growing UK coalition aiming to change public knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards death, dying and bereavement.

Everplans - an American site that brings modern tools and approaches to the tough topics of death and dying.


In Gratitude to a brave and loving man, Nigel Slater, 1955 - 2013.

Writer & Director - Lynette Wallworth

Producer - Kath Shelper

Director of Photography - Simon Morris

Sound Recordist - Mark Cornish

Editor - Karryn de Cinque

Sound Designer - Liam Egan

Music - Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

Featuring -

Jenny Briscoe-Hough, Sheryl Wiffen, Misty Gurtala, Adrianne Talbot-Thompson,

Tina Howard, Nigel Slater, Christine Okoniowski, Ann Martin, Andrew Allard, Nella Keenan,

Eileen Street, Andrew Stanger, Dan Deighton, Jason Whaley, Tisa Oliverio, Sharyn Lacey,

Denise Gracie, Coral Campbell, Lorraine Brown, Narelle Thomas, Kate Worth, Gordon Bradbery,

Zenith Virago, Michael Barbato, Steve Slater & Bailey (Dog). 

Post-Produced in New South Wales, Australia.

Scarlett Pictures acknowledges the support of Screen Australia’s Enterprise Program.

Financed in association with Screen NSW.

Supported by The Hive Fund.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Australia Council for the Arts.

Produced in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Produced with the assistance of the Adelaide Film Festival.

© 2013 Scarlett Pictures Pty Ltd, Lynette Wallworth and Adelaide Film Festival.

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