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A remote New South Wales community fights to retain the home of its first and only funeral service -

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ELEANOR HALL: Back home now and an outback town in the north-west of New South Wales could be about to lose its only funeral provider.

The Lightning Ridge Funeral Advisory Service has been operating from an abandoned RSL club in the outback mining town.

But the RSL is now selling the property, which means the not-for-profit funeral service will soon be without a home.

Kathleen Ferguson has our report.

KATHLEEN FERGUSON: In the remote mining town of Lightning Ridge, the community ties are strong - so strong that locals have long taken on the task of running their own funeral service.

In the past four years, Richard Boehm has used it to help bury his parents.

RICHARD BOEHM: It's not like a normal funeral because the actual undertakers are friends with the people that are being buried and it makes it a great service.

KATHLEEN FERGUSON: The not-for-profit Lightning Ridge Funeral Advisory Service was created more than 30 years ago, and is run mostly by volunteers, including opal miners, local councillors and retired mayors.

They've carried out 15 funerals so far this year.

The service charges about $3,000, which makes it much cheaper than commercial providers.

Ormie Molyneux is one of the volunteers and the nephew of its founder.

ORMIE MOLYNEUX: My uncle and a group of other men got together and decided it would be a good idea if we had one because of the tyranny of distance and there was no sealed roads and the roads were rough and no-one wanted to come out here bury people and they probably wouldn't have got paid so they're reluctant to be here.

KATHLEEN FERGUSON: But the future of the funeral service is now in doubt. It operates from a building on a block of land owned by the RSL.

But the RSL has sold the property and while the new owner hasn't been revealed, the funeral service has been told it'll have to find somewhere else to store its equipment, including two hearses.

The president of the Lightning Ridge Funeral Advisory Service, Ian Woodcock, says the group tried twice to buy the property but the RSL ignored those offers.

IAN WOODCOCK: There's been no contact at all, until we heard, the agent rang up and said that the building has been sold for $100,000 and that we had to shift our gear.

KATHLEEN FERGUSON: Ian Woodcock says that's a breach of the deal struck by the founders of the local RSL branch, who'd agreed the funeral service could operate from the property for as long as it was viable.

The ABC has contacted the New South Wales RSL, but it says it won't comment.

The funeral service has lodged a legal caveat to try to delay the sale of the property.

But volunteer, Ormie Molyneux, acknowledges time is running out.

ORMIE MOLYNEUX: The caveat was a stalling tactic to give us time to bring to light to the Lightning Ridge community and the people in the surrounding districts just what's going on here.

We're not getting a fair go and we believe that the RSL should show some common courtesy and at least speak to us.

KATHLEEN FERGUSON: And he concedes the funeral service doesn't have enough money to pursue the legal action any further.

ORMIE MOLYNEUX: It's a fair sort of kick in the guts for us because we never thought for one minute that anyone within the community would actually put in a bid for this building and we ask that they withdraw that bid, you know, just for the sake of the community and for the service because it benefits everyone in the end.

You know, you can't dodge death.

KATHLEEN FERGUSON: Lightning Ridge resident Richard Boehm says losing the locally-run funeral service would be a blow for the community.

RICHARD BOEHM: The people running the business are friends with the people that have gone away. It just makes it a little bit easier to cope, it makes you feel a lot better and it's a service to the town that we should appreciate a lot more.

KATHLEEN FERGUSON: If the Lightning Ridge Funeral Advisory Service shuts down, residents will have to use the funeral directors at Walgett, which is 77 kilometres away.

ELEANOR HALL: Kathleen Ferguson reporting.