The Save Sorry Business Coalition have welcomed the government's commitment to a Youpla compensation resolution in the coming months, while expressing frustration that it was left out of the budget.
Victims of the failed Youpla funeral company are still facing a "heartbreaking" wait for the federal government to announce an ongoing resolution and compensation scheme more than a year after the company's collapse.
The Save Sorry Business Coalition, the group advocating for the 105,000 First Nations victims of the company, say they have met with the Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney and been assured that a resolution is coming "within months".
"While we are disappointed that a permanent Youpla scheme was not established in the May Federal Budget, we welcome the commitment given to us in person by Minister Burney," Boandik woman Bettina Cooper says.
While we are disappointed that a permanent scheme was not established, we welcome the commitment from Minister BurneyBoandik woman Bettina Cooper
"We support steps being taken by the Federal Government to establish a fair and culturally appropriate scheme within the next few months and to finalise the full details of the scheme, including scope and timing. These details will give First Nations communities certainty and confidence in the process."
"It is heartbreaking that it's been a year and it's frustrating that they aren't further along on an enduring resolution. It should have been in the May budget," says Cooper.
In March last year the funeral company Youpla, previously known as the Aboriginal Community Benefits Fund (ACBF), went into administration. There are over 100,000 First Nations consumers who paid money to the company over the years – many paying thousands of dollars – and been left with nothing.
The company took over $170 million from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy holders over three decades. Before going into administration, the company had multiple findings of misleading and deceptive conduct in terms of how their policies were sold and how they misrepresented the company as an Aboriginal-owned organisation.
The company took over $170 million from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy holders over three decades
"It is over twenty years since successive federal governments approved Youpla to receive payments via Centrepay, taking family income out of social security payments before they could put food on the table," Cooper says.
"During this time, state and federal governments and regulators knew what was happening and failed to stop this financial exploitation."
The federal government in July last year announced a $4 million temporary scheme to cover the funeral costs of some Youpla/ACBF policy holders who recently passed away.
That temporary scheme comes to an end on November 30 this year and Cooper says the uncertainty has left many people anxious and worried.
"Those who are terminally ill or sick are watching the clock and are concerned. 'Do I have to die before 30 November to not put an intergenerational debt on my family?'"
She adds that Minister Burney committed to a "fair and culturally appropriate resolution" being announced before the expiry of the temporary scheme.
The Save Sorry Business Coalition say a wide range of MPs and Senators from across the political spectrum have expressed ongoing support for a resolution for Youpla victims.
Greens Senator David Shoebridge told CHOICE the lack of funding in the budget was a "serious blow" to those who had lost their life savings to Youpla.
"I'm still hearing from First Nations people across NSW who were promised a hand in this saga, and so far look to be getting nothing," he says.
Successive federal governments approved Youpla to receive payments via Centrepay, taking family income out of social security payments before they could put food on the tableBoandik woman Bettina Cooper
"This is a wicked and complex problem and that has allowed the government to pretend their response is a genuine solution and it's not. They are only helping a tiny handful of First Nations policy holders and leaving tens of thousands with no funeral cover after paying years and years of expensive premiums," he adds.
Meanwhile, independent MP Zali Steggall says she was "disappointed" the budget had nothing for Youpla victims.
"I'm pleased to hear that the Save Sorry Business Coalition and Federal Government are working constructively towards both a culturally appropriate and timely resolution. I will continue to press the government to resolve this issue. It is important that the government hear the voices of indigenous elders on this," she says.
The Save Sorry Business Coalition is a First Nations-led campaign supported by 130 organisations, including CHOICE.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.