Government scheme for ACBF Youpla customers expires in November — what happens next?

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Three years ago, Donald Craigie used $6,000 that was meant to fix his 2005 Holden Commodore to buy burial plots for himself and his family beside the grave of his daughter.

When the federal budget was handed down on Tuesday night, he was hopeful the government would ease his mind about how they might one day pay for their own funerals.

Mr Craigie was one of thousands of people covered by the funeral insurance company Youpla – formerly known as the Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF) — when it collapsed in 2021.

Last year, the government established a scheme that pays for the funerals of anyone who had a policy with Youpla as at April 1, 2020.

But the scheme runs out in November, and Mr Craigie had been hoping there would be some money in this year’s budget to show that would not be the end of it.

“I was already gutted, how much further can I be gutted?” he said.

“The federal government and the regulators are responsible for this shemozzle.

“They are the ones that need to fix it, and fix it by the end of November.”

Advocates for the company’s former customers have been travelling to Canberra and campaigning for the government to provide a long-term solution since the company went bust.

“We’ve asked for people as far back as 2001 to receive their money back, or the option of a culturally appropriate funeral bond,” the Save Sorry Business Coalition’s Bettina Cooper said.

They say while there was no funding allocated in this week’s budget, this week the government promised behind closed doors they would deliver.

“They made the promise that the funding and an enduring resolution would be up before the expiration of the current Youpla funeral benefit program [in November],” Ms Cooper said.

“I am confident that a scheme that will be an enduring resolution will be available this year. I’m not confident at this point who will be included as part of that scheme.”

In a statement, Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney confirmed that she met with the group this week, but would not say what was discussed.

“The government is carefully considering further actions – we are deeply aware of the need to develop a solution that brings a longer-term resolution to those people impacted by Youpla’s collapse,” Ms Burney said in a statement.

The minister said the government’s interim scheme had so far paid for the funerals of more than 200 First Nations people.

ACBF ‘took advantage’ of Centrelink payments

Advocates have long argued that successive governments played an important role in allowing ACBF to prosper at the expense of Aboriginal people.

Over its 30-year history, ACBF ran into trouble with regulators multiple times — for falsely claiming to be Aboriginal-owned and operated and for using predatory sales tactics.

ASIC ran court cases against the company — briefly preventing it from recruiting new customers — and the banking royal commission delivered a scathing assessment of their business model in its 2018 interim report.

Despite this, for 16 years from 2001, ACBF signed up thousands of customers using Centrepay — a government-run system which allows companies to make deductions from customers’ Centrelink payments before the money hits their bank accounts.

Mr Craigie believes the government owes policyholders more than what they put in over the years.

“Give us our money back and for the pain that they caused us, give us interest — in other words, compensation,” he said.

By the Indigenous Affairs Team’s Kirstie Wellauer and the Specialist Reporting Team’s Loretta Florance  (Original ABC Article)