Canberra region families will soon have greater choice and involvement in how they farewell their loved ones and more affordable funeral options.
Tender Funerals Canberra has announced that it will open for business in August after acquiring premises in Fairbairn with the help of Canberra Airport Group, $1 million in funding from the Snow Foundation, and community donations.
The Canberra not-for-profit organisation has been working for years to establish itself in the National Capital. It will replicate the successful Tender Funeral models in Port Kembla in the Illawarra district and Wauchope on the mid-North Coast.
The Tender Funeral model offers personalised services to families, who can participate in the handling of their loved ones and have more of a say in the actual funeral ceremony than standard providers.
It also operates at cost, so more affordable options can be provided, with savings of several thousand dollars, according to the experiences of Port Kembla and Wauchope.
Newly appointed general manager Catherine Prosser said an average funeral and burial in Canberra could cost more than $16,000 and cremation $6000.
Ms Prosser said at Tender, people would only pay for the things they actually wanted, so flowers could just as easily be provided by one’s own florist or family and friends, and a coffin could be cardboard.
She said operating at cost would allow Tender to offer funerals that were more in reach for many families.
It would also operate a benevolent fund to assist financially distressed families who could not afford an at-cost funeral.
Mr Prosser said that in many ways, Tender would be just like any other funeral service but one that “focuses on putting choice, control and affordability in the hands of people who need us”.
“We will collect them, look after them in the mortuary according to family wishes, provide a range of different coffins, from traditional to cardboard, arrange a faith-based service or something more creative or personal, or in your home,” she said.
Ms Prosser said being more personally involved and having more choices in the funeral process made such a big difference to healthy bereavement and avoiding complex grief.
The Fairbairn building is in the old officers mess. It will house two wash and dress rooms for families, two viewing or vigil rooms, two lounge-like arrangement rooms where families can discuss their funeral options, a mortuary, and a community space for workshops and ceremonies.
It will have capacity to take 50 people for care across its refrigerators and cool room.
Ms Prosser said the site was not only in a peaceful, natural setting but central, being only 30 minutes from anywhere in Canberra. It also had good access to the surrounding NSW communities.
She said when the Snow Foundation heard how difficult finding a site had been, it approached Canberra Airport, which came to the party and even offered to project manage the building fit-out.
A Snow Foundation grant of $750,000 will pay for the fit-out, and a $250,000 interest-free loan will provide working capital and equipment to get established.
The Foundation had also provided seed capital for Tender.
Foundation CEO Georgina Byron said Tender was an opportunity to address the needs of grieving Canberrans in innovative and caring ways.
“This partnership reflects our commitment to making a real difference in the lives of those experiencing loss in our region, ensuring they have access to services that respect their needs and circumstances,” Ms Byron said.
“The involvement of Capital Airport Group, particularly in identifying and supplying the new site at Fairbairn and project managing the fit out for specific requirements, highlights our family’s collective effort to support community initiatives that make a meaningful impact.”
Ms Prosser said recruitment would start soon for a funeral director, part-time and casual funeral directors and administration staff.
“The combination of Canberra Airport supporting the premises and lease and the Snow Foundation supporting the fit-out costs has not only let us start Tender, but it has also let us start Tender in a place that is going to let us grow and expand as we become more widely known to the Canberra region,” she said.
“I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the commitment and passion from the Snow Foundation for this project.”
The Tender role is a continuation of Ms Prosser’s involvement in community, education, theatre, events organisations and boards.
“I’m really bringing my community governance and management skills to Tender,” she said.
“Theatre and events are all about bringing people together to tell a particular story, which is very much what a funeral is about.”
Ms Prosser said she found Tender after searching online for how to start a funeral business after going through the death of her father and father-in-law, who both had degenerative conditions.
“People are not really confident about what to do when somebody dies and what they are able to do,” she said.
“I was really interested in moving into the death and dying and end-o-life area one way or the other.”
She believed Tender would have a positive effect on the funeral industry.
“I would like to think that as a community, we are all getting better and thinking and talking about what’s important for us when someone dies and does need a funeral, and I think that will be reflected in the industry more broadly,” she said.
Tender Funerals Canberra Region is a nominated charity for Hands Across Canberra’s annual Canberra Day Appeal. By donating at Hands Across Canberra, Canberrans can support not-for-profit, affordable, meaningful funerals.
To learn more, visit the Tender Canberra website.