Fed push plea over junk funeral insurer

·3-min read

Families left stranded by the collapse of insurance provider Youpla need urgent help to give them the dignity of a culturally appropriate funeral and grieving period, advocates say.

The Save Sorry Business coalition on Wednesday called for whoever wins the federal election next month to urgently help Indigenous people who have recently passed away or are in the final stages of their lives, and compensate all of Youpla's former members.

"Community did the right thing preparing for their funeral because they know how important and how expensive Sorry Business can be, but they have been ripped off and misled," Samantha Rudolph, Wurundjeri woman and Consumer Action Law Centre representative, said.

The coalition of more than 125 organisations seeking justice is led by Indigenous people and organisations, supported by charities, financial counselling organisations, community legal centres, consumer advocacy groups, social services, and unions.

The Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund, trading as Youpla, sold junk funeral plans to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia for decades before coming to the attention of the banking royal commission and regulators.

Mark Holden, Dunghutti man and solicitor at Mob Strong Debt Help said he has been getting thousands of calls from people who are distressed and desperate.

"It is especially hard talking to elders who are calling through who have given so much of themselves to community - they deserve a dignified farewell in accordance with Sorry Business protocols," he said.

Youpla collapsed last month, wiping out the funeral plans of more than 10,000 families.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission had been investigating Youpla and its group of funeral contribution funds.

ASIC and NSW Fair Trading are dual regulators of the group and are working with administrators, who have warned there are limited funds available.

Appointed by the NSW Supreme Court, liquidator David Stimpson of SV Partners this month took on all four funds in the group.

Lynda Edwards, Wangkumara/Barkandji woman and Financial Counselling Australia spokeswoman said the collapse of Youpla has left families and community in severe hardship.

"We are calling on whoever forms government after the election to set up a compensation scheme to alleviate the hardship and trauma that is already being felt in First Nations communities across Australia," she said.

"Don't create another gap."

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe said her nan, Edna Brown, founded the Aboriginal Funeral Benefits Fund in the 1960s to stop First Nations people being buried as paupers in unmarked graves.

"In 2022, our family members are being left in morgues while community saves for Sorry Business," she said.

The banking royal commission recommended urgent regulation, after hearing evidence that funeral insurers exploited First Nations communities.

"What has this government done about it?"

The Greens have proposed two forms of relief.

The federal government could honour policies to cover current funeral costs, and repay premiums paid by other policyholders over the past decade to help them start a reserve for future funeral costs.

The Coalition and Labor have been contacted for comment.

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