First Nations Elders, advocates and clients from remote corners of Australia have made the journey to Canberra to meet with federal politicians this week, to urge for a broad compensation scheme for people affected by the Youpla funeral fund collapse.
Last week the federal government announced an initial compensation scheme for victims of the Youpla collapse who have recently passed away or will pass away before 30 November 2023.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney says the $4 million fund was to immediately help those who needed culturally appropriate burials while the government consulted about a broader scheme.
Funeral fund collapse
Youpla, previously known as the Aboriginal Community Benefits Fund (ACBF), was a non-Indigenous-owned funeral fund which signed up some 30,000 Indigenous people around Australia through misleading and deceptive means. The fund took thousands of dollars in premiums from people, while promising to cover the cost of Sorry Business in the event of their deaths.
The fund went into liquidation in March this year, leaving tens of thousands of people with nothing to show for their thousands of dollars paid and no way to bury their loved ones in a culturally appropriate way.
Problems with Youpla/ACBF have been known to successive governments and regulators who failed to take action against the company.
Tens of thousands unlikely to benefit from interim package
The Save Sorry Business Coalition estimates that at least 30,000 people affected by the collapse of Youpla are unlikely to be covered by the initial package announced last week. This includes people who did not have an active policy as of 1 April 2020 and are still in need of government assistance to compensate them for the cover they lost.
The Coalition is supported by 130 organisations and 20,000 individuals who support redress for consumers affected by the insurer's collapse.
Samantha Rudolph, Wurundjeri woman and Aboriginal Policy Officer at Consumer Action Law Centre, says the harm caused by Youpla's practices were laid bare in the banking royal commission.
"Delivering a just outcome for all people and communities harmed by Youpla and the failure of multiple previous governments will be an important part of the new government's legacy for First Nations communities," she says.
Save Sorry Business campaign meets with federal government ministers.
Many affected are unable to hold Sorry Business
The Coalition surveyed more than 300 First Nations people who had policies with Youpla/ACBF, and found that more than half of them would not be able to hold a culturally appropriate funeral and Sorry Business for their loved ones, while 40% would need to go into debt to pay for a funeral.
The respondents were also asked about the government response they'd prefer:
- 69% say they wanted their money refunded
- 17% say they want a funeral savings plan
- 14% say they want a prepaid funeral.
Bettina Cooper, Boandik woman and Aboriginal Financial Counsellor at Mob Strong Debt Help, says the government's initial announcement was welcome news.
"We look forward to the new government consulting with community about a lasting resolution for all people harmed by Youpla's collapse. Youpla caused widespread cultural and economic harm, and is continuing to worsen the gap, rather than closing it," she says.
Stock images: Getty unless otherwise stated.