Need to know
- The Commonwealth will provide money to cover the funeral costs of First Nations people who held policies with Youpla as of 1 April 2020.
- The payments will be available to eligible beneficiaries of those who had active policies with the predatory insurer.
- Youpla went into liquidation in March this year, with at least 20,000 Indigenous policy holders losing thousands of dollars.
The federal government has used the first week of the new parliament to announce a support fund for some of the Indigenous Australians holding policies with the funeral company Youpla, which went into liquidation earlier this year.
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and Financial Services Minister Stephen Jones today announced up to $4 million would be available to pay for the funerals.
The money will be limited to the beneficiaries of First Nations policy holders who have just recently passed away or who pass away before 30 November 2023, to go towards funeral costs.
It is vital that traditional mourning practices be allowed to continue despite the collapse of the Youpla Group funeral contribution funds earlier this yearIndigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney
Burney says the initiative will support Sorry Business – a mourning practice of "deepest cultural importance" to First Nations peoples.
"It is vital that traditional mourning practices be allowed to continue despite the collapse of the Youpla Group funeral contribution funds earlier this year," says Burney.
"That is why the Albanese government intends to resolve the uncertainty for the families of deceased Youpla Group policy holders so they can get on with Sorry Business."
Youpla, formerly known as the Aboriginal Community Benefits Fund (ACBF), was a non-Indigenous owned company. It used misleading and deceptive means to sign up thousands of Indigenous people to low-quality funeral insurance products over several decades.
Since the company went insolvent in March, at least 20,000 Indigenous policy holders have lost the thousands of dollars they had sunk into the fund, hoping to make sure their funerals would be paid for in the event of their death.
Since the company went insolvent in March, at least 20,000 Indigenous policy holders have lost the thousands of dollars they had sunk into the fund
Liquidators are still going over Youpla's books. But in the meantime, Indigenous people who hold policies with the company who pass away are being left in morgues and not given culturally appropriate burials. Some of their families have no choice but to take out high-interest loans to pay for an appropriate burial.
Limiting 'cultural damage and community grief'
Minister Burney describes today's announcement as an "interim" measure while the government investigates what further steps are required to resolve the Youpla Group collapse.
"Our first priority today is simply to limit the immediate cultural damage and community grief Youpla Group's liquidation has precipitated," she says.
Under the scheme, the government will provide funds to cover the unpaid funeral claims of people who held active policies with Youpla as of 1 April 2020.
This money will go to the eligible beneficiaries of those policyholders who have passed away – an estimated 500 people. The typical value of each of these policies is $8000 and the payments will be on offer until 30 November 2023.
The government will consult in the coming year what the remaining tens of thousands of policyholders should be entitled to after this cut-off date.
The announcement comes in the midst of Save Sorry Business – a major campaign led by First Nations groups, calling on the government to step in and offer compensation to all the victims of the Youpla collapse.
Lynda Edwards, a Wangkumara and Barkandji woman and financial capability coordinator at Financial Counselling Australia, says the government's announcement today is a good first step.
"We warmly welcome the federal government's commitment as a first step towards a resolution for Youpla customers who have passed away," she says. "These are First Nations people who were simply trying to do the right thing by their families and community."
These are First Nations people who were simply trying to do the right thing by their families and communityLynda Edwards, Financial Counselling Australia
Bettina Cooper, a Boandik woman and Aboriginal financial counsellor at Mob Strong Debt Help, says it's an important and welcome announcement from the government.
"We recognise and appreciate the willingness of the federal government to listen to and consult with First Nations people on this issue," she says. "We look forward to further conversations around a fair resolution for the remaining policyholders who were exploited by Youpla and let down by repeated regulatory failures.
"There is a lot more work to be done before the twenty to thirty thousand First Nations peoples harmed by Youpla can heal from decades of deliberate harm."
Add your name to the open letter urging the government to Save Sorry Business and compensate all Youpla victims.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.