•   
  •   

Australia Financial counsellors uncover former clients of controversial funeral insurer ACBF in remote Kimberley

03:07  21 february  2021
03:07  21 february  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

Medical drones set to take off in Top End

  Medical drones set to take off in Top End Northern Territory scientists are studying if drones can deliver medical supplies and collect pathology samples from the Top End's 80 remote health clinics.It's hoped drones will also be able to drop off medical supplies and collect pathology samples from the Top End's 80 remote health clinics.

a man and a woman standing in front of a building: Josephine Grace and her friend Deborah Sebastian were ACBF clients. (ABC Kimberley: Hannah Barry) © Provided by ABC Health Josephine Grace and her friend Deborah Sebastian were ACBF clients. (ABC Kimberley: Hannah Barry)

Josephine Grace was living in emergency housing when she got a knock at the door.

"We were wondering who they were, and they reckoned they were from the Aboriginal funeral planning mob," she said.

"We sat down and talked with them and they said they help Aboriginal people when you pass away for funeral costs, because it's expensive."

Josephine and her family — her partner and their three children — were signed up to the Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF), an insurance provider that said it provided funeral plans for those practising Sorry Business.

City of London pays early price of hard Brexit

  City of London pays early price of hard Brexit Europe's financial capital is feeling the cold of Brexit but UK officials insist the City of London is suffering a temporary blip and is well-positioned to profit from new trading horizons. For the first time last month, as Britain's withdrawal from the EU took full effect, London's financial district lost its European share trading crown to Amsterdam. Researchers at IHS Markit attributed the decline to a "relatively hard Brexit", and the UKFor the first time last month, as Britain's withdrawal from the EU took full effect, London's financial district lost its European share trading crown to Amsterdam.

It wasn't until last year, almost two decades after she was door-knocked while living in Broome, that she attempted to make a claim.

Her partner passed away, and having initially signed up for the $6,000 policy, Josephine said she was told only $4,000 would be made available not to her — but directly to the funeral director.

She alleged representatives from ACBF — now known as Youpla — told her she would need to invest more money into the fund before they could pay her out the full amount.

Confused by her experience, Josephine reached out to Broome Circle, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people in financial crisis.

Veronica Johnson, a financial counsellor with Broome Circle, has been trying to uncover the extent of ACBF's work before it was pulled up by the regulator in 2005.

Kimberley-Clark fined $200,000 over 'misleading' claims flushable wipes were made in Australia

  Kimberley-Clark fined $200,000 over 'misleading' claims flushable wipes were made in Australia The Federal Court fines Kimberley-Clark for misleading consumers over the manufacturing origins of its flushable wipes, after a logo saying they were made in Australia appeared in the footer of the company's website where the imported products were featured.Kimberly-Clark Australia (KCA) accepted its use of the logo saying they were made in Australia on its websites for the products was false or misleading because the flushable wipes were foreign-made.

"People are starting to come out, but we are only just skimming the surface," she said.

Investigations take financial counsellors out bush

Until recently, it was believed ACBF mainly operated in the eastern states, with customers from Queensland coming forward with their stories.

However, financial counsellors have uncovered a number of clients based in Western Australia's Kimberley region — home to one of the country's highest concentrations of remote Aboriginal communities.

Ms Johnson and Financial Rights Australia began investigating the company's activities after it was grilled by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, where it was accused of exploiting the cultural significance of funerals to Aboriginal communities.

Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission submitted that ACBF may have misled consumers into believing it was an Aboriginal-owned company, did not pay out in the event of a suicide and was designed in such a way that policyholders might pay more in premiums than they were ever entitled to receive.

Melissa Caddick demand her mansion be sold to pay them back

  Melissa Caddick demand her mansion be sold to pay them back Caddick, 49, vanished on November 12, two days after a Federal Police raid on her $6.1million Dover Heights home for allegedly stealing tens of millions in investors' funds.Caddick vanished on November 12, two days after Federal Police raided her Dover Heights home for allegedly stealing tens of millions in investors' funds.

The company had been investigated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) three times before, with for allegedly breaching the ASIC Act.

Ms Johnson and her team from Broome Circle have travelled up and down WA's Dampier Peninsula and found just over a dozen of ACBF's former clients who said they had had varying issues with the insurer.

But due to the Kimberley's remoteness, it has been a difficult task letting people know of ASIC's most recent investigation into the insurer.

Uncovering clients in remote communities

Michelle Cox lives in Djarindjin, a remote community about two hours out of Broome.

She said she only found out something was wrong when her policy was suddenly cut off while she was in the middle of dealing with significant financial stress.

"I missed two payments, so that's where it started. I started to realise they weren't going to give me what I paid for," she said.

With all four of her children signed up to the plan — including her youngest, who was signed up when she was a baby — she was nervous when the insurer knocked back her request to renegotiate her payments.

Texas Is a Mess

  Texas Is a Mess Images from Texas, where residents have been coping with the harsh conditions as best they can

After paying more than $10,000 in premiums, she was suddenly cut loose.

This was despite ACBF's policy permitting a client to miss up to four premium instalment payments with a further 31-day period before a policy is cancelled due to non-payment.

Ms Cox said others on the peninsula could be in a similar position to her.

"They [the company] have been up and down these communities over the years, signing up people," she said.

Tracking down the financial footprint

Ms Johnson said the most concerning thing about working on the investigation was not knowing how widespread ACBF's activities were in the Kimberley.

Ms Johnson has been aided on the way by former ACBF employee Natalie Hunter, who worked in the Kimberley region signing people up before she learned of the Royal Commission's investigations.

An Aboriginal woman herself, Ms Hunter said she thought she was helping people with a tailored product from an Indigenous-owned company.

"It identified as an Aboriginal funeral fund and I was quite excited about it," she said.

She even signed up her family to the fund, and was heartened when she received $15,000 after the death of a family member.

Ms Hunter said while she had suspicions during her time working at the company, she was surprised to find out they were not an Aboriginal-owned organisation.

Myanmar grieves as funeral rites held for young anti-coup protester

  Myanmar grieves as funeral rites held for young anti-coup protester A sombre Buddhist funeral song rung out in Myanmar's capital as the body of a young woman, struck down during a rally against this month's military coup, was carried to a ceremony marking the end of her short life. Mourners gathered outside the funeral hall held up the three-finger salute that has been adopted as a gesture of resistance to military rule. The crowd departed as her coffin was set ablaze for her cremation, a thin plume of smoke rising from the funeral hall's chimney.

Through her investigations and conversations with Ms Hunter, Ms Johnson said she heard stories of up to 50 people queueing to sign up outside the Beagle Bay General Store.

Financial counsellors allege the insurer deliberately targeted remote communities where there was poor financial literacy.

Ms Johnson said all the clients she had uncovered in the Kimberley were of the same ilk.

"All the clients that we're dealing with all come under the one banner: they're all Indigenous, they're all vulnerable, they're all on Centrelink," she said.

As investigations into clients in Western Australia continue, Ms Johnson said she and Broome Circle would keep travelling the Kimberley to meet people and hear their stories.

"We'll be happy to assist … in whatever way we can to actually investigate the situation and do the best we can to get a refund," she said.

'We take complaints very seriously': Youpla

In response to the allegations, a statement from Youpla's board of directors said they were unable to discuss the matter as it was before the court.

"We take complaints very seriously," it said.

"We would encourage those individuals to contact us to resolve their complaint as the conduct described does not align with the principles or policies of Youpla.

"We encourage all members who are unsatisfied with the product or service of Youpla to contact us."

The company said it was focused on the continued improvement of its products, and its main focus was now on meeting the needs of its customers.

Youpla said that since late 2018, it had been 50 per cent Aboriginal-owned.

It said in the same year, it changed ACBF's practice of refunding contributions when a member died as the result of suicide to allow next of kin to make a claim for the full benefit amount.

UK bids farewell to lockdown hero as US backs huge rescue plan .
Britain said farewell Saturday to fundraising war veteran Captain Tom Moore who died from coronavirus earlier this month, as the US pushed forward with a massive recovery plan for its Covid-battered economy. A vast $1.9 trillion package -- including $1,400 payouts to most Americans and billions of dollars to boost vaccine delivery, help schools reopen and fund local governments -- was passed in the US House of Representatives and will now move to the Senate.

usr: 3
This is interesting!