Elders have travelled across the country to Parliament House to lobby on behalf of those impacted by the failure of the Youpla funeral insurance fund.
Gomeroi woman Jill Ahoy and her family paid money to the fund, formerly known as the Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF), over decades, in the hope of securing culturally appropriate funerals.
Ms Ahoy said the discovery that the money was gone was a severe shock.
“I've had five generations of my family paying into this Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund, so it was called. So my grandmother, when she was alive, Mum, myself, my daughter, and my granddaughter.
“It was devastating when we found out.”
More compensation requested
Last week the Albanese government announced four million dollars in emergency relief for as many as 500 policy holders to access payouts for funeral expenses.
However, with an estimated 30,000 people impacted and the emergency relief set to expire next November, the Save Sorry Business Coalition is looking for a long-term solution for those still left in the lurch.
Wangkumara/Barkandji woman Lynda Edwards, a coordinator for financial capability with Financial Counselling Australia, joined the group in Canberra. She says while the initial emergency funding is a positive first step, there is still work to be done.
“These people have paid for decades, and have tried to look after their family by ensuring that their funerals are paid.
“Whilst it's good that people [who] have passed away, that are waiting to be buried, are going to be covered… our next step is to ensure that all of the people that have been impacted... are actually covered."
Tailored response required
On Wednesday, the Save Sorry Business Coalition released results from a survey taken by those impacted by the funeral fund's collapse.
69 per cent said they want their money refunded, 17 per cent said they would prefer a funeral savings plan, and 14 per cent are asking for a prepaid funeral.
Boandik woman Bettina Cooper who is a financial counsellor with Mob Strong said the survey showed the need for government to offer multiple payment solutions to cover the costs of funerals for all affected.
"We need a solution not just for the emergency 500, we need a solution for the 30,000," she said.
"We need a solution for all the First Nations people affected by this collapse, one that is culturally appropriate.
When asked how they would pay for a loved one’s funeral if they did not get the money returned, 50 per cent said they wouldn’t be able to provide a culturally appropriate funeral, 40 per cent said they would take out a loan even if it meant going into debt, and 25 per cent said they would try to access their superannuation early.
Nyikina woman Vennessa Poelina, who travelled twelve hours from Broome to Canberra, said the impact on community would be devastating if the funds were not returned in some way.
“We represent our states, we represent our communities. And all we want is for the government at least consider how they're going to support us going forward.”
The group met with Minister for Indigenous Affairs Linda Burney and Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones yesterday with talks expected to continue throughout the week.
Ms Ahoy said so far the talks have been positive.
“When I left there yesterday, I felt real good. You know, I felt that we were heard. And it just made me feel good knowing that'll continue today.”
Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones told parliament yesterday that the emergency relief fund for 500 families was a first step and that "more work needs to be done to ensure that we can resolve all the other issues associated with this collapse."
Ms Ahoy is hoping she can leave Canberra at the end of the week with more definitive answers for her family and community.
“It means a great deal for me to be able to come down here and represent my family and our mob... and [politicians] to come back to us with an answer on how they can help not just my mob, but everybody that's been affected by this across our country.”