Forget $3000 caskets, meet the guy who paints cardboard coffins in Canberra

Forget $3000 caskets, meet the guy who paints cardboard coffins in Canberra

RiotAct

28 November 2022

The wooden stick dips into the jar of ‘green curry paste’ and heads for the cardboard, charged with light purple acrylic paint.

Gregory Andrews is a Dharawal man from southwest Sydney but today he’s in his South Canberra garage, adding the finishing touches to a traditional dot-style artwork on the lid of a cardboard coffin.

“The four roundels represent the four stages of life – infancy, youth, adulthood and old age,” he explains.

But the artwork also goes to show just how flexible a funeral can be. Forget about the $3000 wooden casket, gleaming hearse and mountain of flowers: there’s a new funeral service coming to Canberra that pares back the years of tradition to “do death differently” – simpler and cheaper. It’s called Tender Funerals, and Gregory is an ambassador.

“When I die, I’d rather people have a big party to celebrate,” Gregory says.

“And I’d rather go in the back of my father-in-law’s trailer we’ve used so many times to take mulch to and from the green waste tip to the garden.”

Tender Funerals is a not-for-profit, largely volunteer-run funeral company with operations in Sydney, the Illawarra region, and the Mid-North Coast. Giving the family maximum control at a low cost is their unique selling point.

Gregory first heard about them a few years ago while serving as High Commissioner to Ghana in West Africa, when he flicked on an episode of the ABC’s Australian Story series, called ‘A Community Undertaking’.

“That really resonated with my wife and I,” Gregory says.

“I didn’t realise you could have so much choice in how you say goodbye to your loved one. There doesn’t have to be a hearse and a formal ceremony at a church, and an extravagant coffin with flowers everywhere. It can be affordable.”

A cardboard coffin like the one in his garage wholesales for $135 at Daisy Box Australia. Tender Funerals adds a small fee and sells them to members of the public to decorate as they please.

Gregory cites examples where photo prints and glitter have been used, although the latter left the mortuary full of glitter for years afterwards.

Tender provides assistance with all the usual arrangements of death certificates and other paperwork, transport, ceremonies, cremation and burial options, vigils and viewings. But they also supply cool cots or plates for keeping the body cool if the family chooses to keep it at the home for a period of time after time of death. Members of the family are also invited to help wash the body.

Tender Funerals director Ellen Collins says while they can sell coffins to the public, the lack of space for arrangement rooms and a mortuary mean their Canberra services are “really limited at the moment.”

“Our biggest challenge right now is finding a suitable site in the ACT.”

A mortuary requires very specific zoning and an allowance in the purpose clause for a funeral parlour. This limits Tender to a handful of sites in Fyshwick and Mitchell, whereas Ellen would prefer to have a place alongside other non-profit community organisations.

“Our ideal ‘home’ will include a garden, workshop and ceremony space, but such a site is well over our current budget.”

Tender made a submission to the ACT Government’s ‘Inquiry into Planning Bill 2022’, which closed 16 November, asking for these zoning laws to be adjusted.

In the meantime, Gregory says more than $2 million has been received in donations. The coffin in his garage will also be auctioned to raise more funds.

“I know that funerals can really drive a lot of families into deep poverty,” he says.

“This puts extra strain on people and stops them from being able to recover in the healthiest way possible from grief. Tender Funeral services not only cost a lot less than conventional funeral services, but the family also has more choice – the funeral is in line with what they would like. They can farewell their loved one exactly as they would have wanted.”

Tender Comment: The what, how and why of being a social franchise

Tender Comment: The what, how and why of being a social franchise

Tender Funerals is structured as a social franchise, with Tender Funerals services operating as social franchisees of Tender Funerals Australia. With the concept of social franchising still fairly new in Australia, we’re often asked what this means, how it works, and why choose social franchising as a model for growing a social enterprise?

Social franchises operate like commercial franchises but with the aim of achieving social purpose rather than profit. The International Centre for Social Franchising (now called Spring Impact) identifies four key elements of social franchising:

1. Ownership – empowered franchisees who feel ownership of their organisations and are highly motivated for them to succeed.
2. Process – having systematised processes but with enough freedom to adapt to the local context.
3. Enhanced network – a network of knowledge, data and innovation shared between franchisees and the franchisor.
4. Name and brand – a recognised brand proposition.

These elements are core to the Tender social franchise model.

A challenge in developing our model was that there is no specific legal framework for social franchising in Australia. This meant we had to develop a bespoke franchise agreement in accordance with the Franchising Code of Conduct which enshrined, promoted, and protected our social purpose.

While Tender Funerals services are community owned and led, our franchising agreement binds sites to operate in accordance with the Tender Credo, Vision Statement, business model and manual, with the common aim of ensuring that people in financial need can access affordable, customisable funeral services. Under the agreement, Tender Funerals Australia provides sites with key intellectual property, capacity building and specialised training.

Core to developing our social franchise model was the Tender Network. The Network meets monthly to share information and lessons learned, discuss challenges, and jointly develop solutions. As a community-led model built on community development principles, active participation in the Network is a pre-requisite for Tender Funerals sites.

We have learned many lessons in structuring Tender Funerals as a social franchise. It’s critical to first have a viable social enterprise and to prove the soundness of the model before looking to grow or scale. The relationship between the franchisor and franchisee is important, and can be different to a commercial franchising relationship. For example, as the work of start-up only has to happen once for each site, it makes sense for Tender Funerals Australia to play this capacity-building role for all the sites. And we’ve had to give thoughtful consideration to potential revenue streams for both Tender Funerals Australia and the sites when setting the amount and structure of the franchise fee. Lastly, it takes time – it was a nearly two-year process from the initial idea to signing our first franchise agreement.

So why did we do it? Given our mission, our model, and the level of interest we’ve had from communities around Australia in starting their own Tender services, social franchising just made sense. In the words of one of our franchisees, “it means we will have the same value of consistency as the Network broadens over a larger area. It’s building peoples’ faith and trust. It’s not just people experiencing a better funeral – this will inform every funeral they ever have. With a social franchise it’s a human service, not just a business.”

Port Kembla’s Tender Funerals expands across the country providing an affordable yet memorable service

Port Kembla’s Tender Funerals expands across the country providing an affordable yet memorable service

Illawarra Mercury
15 June 2022

A community-based model to ensure funerals don’t leave loved ones in mountains of debt is finally taking off around the country, thanks to a dedicated group in Port Kembla.

Not-for-profit Tender Funerals has just expanded with a funeral service opening this month on the NSW Mid-North Coast.

Founder of the model Jenny Briscoe-Hough said this was only the beginning for expansion, with the organisation working with community groups in the Western Sydney, Canberra, Far North Queensland, Tasmania and in Western Australia.

All should be open within the next three to five years.

“Once people understand and see what Tender is, everyone’s going to want one,” Ms Briscoe-Hough said.

“In a way that thought has always been there, it’s not surprising that people want one.”

They also allow people to send-off their loved ones in the way they want, not just through a traditional large gathering at a funeral home.

Ms Briscoe-Hough said to get the Mid-North Coast service up and running, they had 51 volunteers constantly fundraising and working with them for years to get it happening.

“All these people are doing this work and doing it because they want their community to have their service,” she said.

“It’s like they’re giving a big gift to their community and often people don’t realise they need it until they need it.”

Ms Briscoe-Hough is excited more people in Australia will be given the choice to have an affordable yet meaningful funeral, as one size does not fit all.

She said the need has always been there though a lack of knowledge and education, as well as lack of services has been a hindrance in the past.

“There’s always been a need for people to know what their choices are,” Ms Briscoe-Hough said.

“It’s not rocket science to choose, it’s just about understanding of what’s possible and having a funeral service that reflects what they want.”

Tender Funerals Mid North Coast general manager Denis Juelicher said the community support had been incredible.

“By denying death, by not talking about death we have disempowered ourselves,” Ms Juelicher said.

“When a loved one dies it can be hard to make good decisions, and information and planning go a long way in creating a process and a ceremony that is meaningful and facilitates healthy bereavement.”

She said everything they do is done with kindness, openness to cultural and individual differences and deep respect.

Australian Funeral Directors Association NSW/ACT Division president Asha Dooley said consumers had a lot of choice in funerals.

“If they are not happy with one funeral firm, they can in most cases, literally walk down the street and go to another firm,” she said.

Miss Dooley said the pandemic showed the funeral industry they need to be flexible and agile.

“I am seeing a greater tendency for families to want to have their own stamp on things, and really make it [funerals] unique, and I think the future will go more and more in that direction,” Miss Dooley said.

“I think as an industry, we are going there with client families and we will continue to go there more and more.”

Live-streaming of funeral services is far more common as a result of the pandemic.

Miss Dooley predicts technology will become more important in the future and face to face conversations will remain important when organising a funeral.

Tender Funerals Mid North Coast launch celebrates community support

Tender Funerals Mid North Coast launch celebrates community support

Port News
9 June 2022

A push to bring the Tender Funerals’ not-for-profit funeral service model to the region started with a working group formed in 2019.

The group of volunteers launched into fundraising, community engagement and community education.

They staged events and market stalls.

The working group completed the administrative background to establish the incorporated organisation and transitioned to being volunteer members of the board.

Tender Funerals Mid North Coast general manager Denis Juelicher said the community support had been incredible.

A fundraising campaign reached $30,000.

Tender Funerals Mid North Coast has connected with community services networks in the Hastings, Kempsey and Manning areas.

The region’s first not-for-profit funeral service launched during a gathering at its newly built site in Wauchope on Thursday, June 2.

Ms Juelicher said we live in a society that has its doors firmly closed on death.

“But by denying death, by not talking about death we have disempowered ourselves,” she said.

Tender Funerals encourages open conversations.

Ms Juelicher urged people to be informed, talk to each other and their families, and plan ahead.

“This is a gift we can give each other because when a loved one dies it can be hard to make good decisions, and information and planning go a long way in creating a process and a ceremony that is meaningful and facilitates healthy bereavement,” she said.

The launch was a celebration of the community effort behind bringing Tender Funerals to the Mid North Coast.

About 70 people attended the launch including philanthropic funders, project partners, board members, residents who have volunteered on working groups and businesses that have provided skills and expertise along the way.

Ms Juelicher said as a community-based, not-for-profit organisation and registered charity, Tender makes funerals more affordable, and will provide more choice.

“Our credo determines that everything we do is done with kindness, openness to cultural and individual differences and deep respect,” she said.

The Tender Funerals Mid North Coast board chairperson, Janet Geronimi, speaking at the launch, said what you see here today is a culmination of more than three years’ work.

She said the launch was a celebration of Tender Funerals Mid North Coast and honouring the history, while glimpsing to the future with confidence and hope.

Tender Funerals Mid North Coast is one of the options for funeral services.

Australian Funeral Directors Association NSW/ACT Division president Asha Dooley said consumers had a lot of choice in funerals.

“If they are not happy with one funeral firm, they can in most cases, literally walk down the street and go to another firm,” she said.

Miss Dooley said the pandemic taught the funeral industry about flexibility and agility.

She believes there will always be a place for funerals with grief research showing the importance of the ritual of a funeral service to say goodbye.

“I am seeing a greater tendency for families to want to have their own stamp on things, and really make it [funerals] unique, and I think the future will go more and more in that direction,” Miss Dooley said.

“I think as an industry, we are going there with client families and we will continue to go there more and more.”

Livestreaming of funeral services is far more common as a result of the pandemic.

Miss Dooley predicts technology will become more important in the future and face to face conversations will remain important when organising a funeral.

The Australian Funeral Directors Association, formed in 1935, is the peak industry body.

In NSW, if family or the person’s estate does not have the money or assets to pay for a funeral, a so-called “destitute funeral” may be available when government support can cover the cost of a basic funeral.

Tender Comment: Collapse of Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund

Tender Comment: Collapse of Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund

Recently it was announced that the group of funeral funds known as the Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund or Youpla has gone into liquidation, leaving around 15,000 First Nations funeral policy holders unable to pay for their funerals.

This is a disaster for the many First Nations families who have saved for decades for their funerals, many of whom already experience significant financial disadvantage.

It is a disaster that should have been foreseen as it was well-known that Youpla was misleading First Nations consumers with deceptive sales practices long before their conduct was exposed in 2018 at the Banking Royal Commission.

We agree with CHOICE Chief Executive Alan Kirkland that this is one of the worst failures of regulation in decades and that the government has a moral obligation to remedy the situation. And we support the call by the coalition of community organisations working with First Nations consumers for government action to compensate those affected.

At minimum, funds must be made available to ensure that First Nations policy holders who have died since the collapse of their fund and those who die in coming months can have dignified and culturally appropriate funerals, pending redress for all policy holders.

Beyond this, there is an opportunity to reflect on some of the less-evident elements of the wicked problem of funeral poverty, particularly as it affects First Nations communities who sadly have far too many experiences of funerals.

Firstly, funerals cost more than they should. Families should not have to go into debt to enable their loved one to have the funeral that is right for them. As Tender Funerals we exist to offer an alternative model of funeral service provision that is meaningful and affordable. More broadly, as a culture we need to rethink the model of the mainstream funeral ‘industry’ that has reduced death care to a commodity and a transaction. We are both financially and spiritually poorer for it.

Secondly, funeral policies are often of limited value, and many people aren’t aware that buying funeral insurance is not the same as saving for a funeral. Given the cost, we do advocate that people save for their funeral. The easiest way to do this is simply to use a savings account. Another option is a funeral bond depending on individual circumstances (learn more here). But the reality is that for people in financial disadvantage, saving for a funeral is a big ask. It would take just under 10 years for someone saving $10 a week to save the bare minimum of $5,000 for a basic funeral. And $10 a week is a lot for someone on a low income. The collapse of Youpla has highlighted that we urgently need a better approach.

Lastly, it is worth pausing to consider the implications of requiring First Nations people to pay for burial. Wouldn’t it be a powerful gesture of reconciliation if no First Nations person had to pay for land for burial anywhere in this country? It may take some work to make this happen. But it would be the right thing to do.

Tender Funerals Mid North Coast creates crowdfunding campaign for healing garden

Tender Funerals Mid North Coast creates crowdfunding campaign for healing garden

Port News
25 March 2022
Tender Funerals Mid North Coast has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the establishment of a healing garden.
Tender Funerals is a registered charity, newly established in the Hastings, offering holistic funerals and community education from Wauchope.
The not-for-profit funeral service has a focus on affordability, community involvement, compassionate support and healthy bereavement.
Tender engages with the community through regular education activities and events, encouraging people to be prepared for death and informed about all the choices available when it comes to funerals and after-death care.
Tender Funerals Mid North Coast general manager Denis Juelicher said after three years of committed volunteer effort by our community, the funeral service was ready to open its doors in April.
“Our community has supported us strongly through our establishment phase, offering financial support, skills and time to get us to this point,” she said.
“We’ve bought land, built a building and are now establishing a beautiful native garden to support the work we do.”
Tender Funerals has created a crowdfunding campaign to support this last step in setting up a not-for-profit funeral service on the Mid North Coast.
People can support the campaign through crowdfunding and online fundraising platform FundRazr.
“We invite everyone who can contribute financially to choose an item from our wish list, that they would like to contribute to our garden,” Ms Juelicher said.
“We have flowers, trees, pavers and lots of other landscaping items on our wish list. We also understand that not everyone is able to contribute financially.
“Other ways of supporting this project are to share information about the campaign or to join us for one of our garden working bees.”