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Latest extension of Youpla Interim Scheme must pave way for culturally appropriate scheme covering Centrepay victims

First Nations consumer advocates from the Save Sorry Business Coalition have greeted the announcement that the Federal Government will extend its Interim Youpla Scheme with a renewed call for the urgent establishment of a fair and culturally appropriate resolution for First Nations people.

Advocates recognise that this extension of the scheme until June 30, 2024, will relieve pressure from those who are at risk of passing. For the 325 First Nations families who have already benefited from the Youpla Funeral Benefit Program, this has been a welcome first step in the resolution process by the Federal Government and has allowed those families to conduct Sorry Business with dignity.

The Federal Government’s role in legitimising and facilitating payments from low income First Nations families through the Centrepay system dates back to 2001, coinciding with a major increase in profits for the company that was recently found to have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by the Federal Court of Australia.

First Nations representatives have been working with the Federal Minister for Financial Services and Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones and Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney for over a year, beginning soon after Youpla went into liquidation. A range of government and regulatory failures, including the registration and continuation of Youpla on Centrepay have been identified and examined.

First Nations representatives have also met with the offices of the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Treasurer Jim Chalmers, Finance Minister Katy Gallagher, Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth, Government Services Minister Bill Shorten and many others in order to highlight the targeted exploitation of vulnerable First Nations people and the Centrepay system over two decades.

The Federal Government has previously given assurances that the final resolution would be fair and culturally appropriate, not excluding First Nations people who had legitimate claims against the company. Commitments to culturally appropriate options such as refunds/payments, replacement funeral bonds and savings products have also been provided.

Quotes attributable to Bettina Cooper, Boandik woman and Save Sorry Business Coalition coordinator & Aboriginal financial counsellor at Mob Strong Debt Help

“We have cautious optimism about yesterday’s announcement from Ministers Linda Burney and Stephen Jones, with hopes that this will be the final extension before the Federal Government’s enduring resolution is announced.”

“We have welcomed their commitment to put a scheme in place to address the harm to First Nations people caused by Youpla, Centrepay and regulatory failures over decades.”

“Minister Burney has previously given her assurance that the scheme will include culturally appropriate options such as refunds/payments, replacement funeral bonds and savings products. This needs to occur alongside culturally appropriate financial counselling support. We are seeking confirmation of these elements.”

It is over thirty years since Youpla started targeting First Nations people and over twenty years since the Federal Government approved Youpla to receive payments via Centrepay, taking money straight from people’s social security payments before they could even put food on the table. We estimate over 100,000 people – or 10% of all First Nations people – have been directly harmed by Youpla.”

“This exploitation and deception has caused severe intergenerational harm for individuals, families and communities. It has created financial and cultural crises, worsened health outcomes and deepened poverty that will take decades to recover from. It has widened the Gap.”

“Responsibility for fixing that lies with the Federal Government. We will continue working with them as a priority to ensure they deliver a fair and culturally appropriate resolution that does not leave First Nations people behind.”

Background: What does a fair and culturally appropriate resolution look like?

Through consultation with First Nations people harmed by Youpla and a comprehensive analysis of data from liquidators, the following criteria for an enduring resolution have been developed and advocated by the Save Sorry Business Coalition:

  • ●  Scheme must cover over 100,000 policyholders who lost over $100 million since 2001
  • ●  No significant exclusions apart from policyholders who paid small total amounts to ACBF/Youpla
  • ●  Premium amount payments returned to First Nations people
  • ●  Includes options for refunds/payments, replacement funeral bonds and savings products
  • ●  Includes financial counselling support and culturally appropriate access options
  • ●  Further consultation around details and delivery of the schemeEditorial note: Youpla refers to the Youpla/ACBF companies and their associated fundsOther useful contacts
  • ●  Mob Strong Debt Helpline – 1800 808 488 or
  • ●  Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network – 1800 369 878 or
  • ●  Financial Counselling Australia – Youpla/ACBF and the Save Sorry Business CoalitionFor 30 years, the Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund, trading as Youpla, aggressively sold poor-value funeral plans to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia.

    Youpla actively preyed on the culturally significant practice of Sorry Business with many people paying tens of thousands of dollars to the company to ensure their families could afford a dignified and culturally appropriate Sorry Business. Federal/state governments and regulators have been aware of the exploitative practices of Youpla for many years.

    The Save Sorry Business Coalition is a First Nations-led campaign supported by 130 organisations and over 20,000 Australians seeking a fair and enduring resolution for over 100,000 First Nations people harmed by the misleading and deceptive conduct of Youpla and the massive and prolonged failure of government and regulators over two decades.

    Media enquiries: Daniel Scoullar, 0402 596 297, [email protected] or the Financial Rights Legal Centre at [email protected]

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