Fundraising underway for community funeral home

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Tender Funerals founder Jenny Briscoe-Hough with Tender Funerals Canberra Region directors Catherine Bell and Bearyn O’Donnell. “It’s their space, their funeral, their way,” says Catherine.

FUNDRAISING is underway for a community-run funeral home which will offer lower-cost services and a caring approach, says Catherine Bell, executive director of Tender Funerals Canberra Region. 

Covering the Canberra, Queanbeyan, Yass, Cooma, Goulburn, Bungendore and Braidwood areas, Tender Funerals Canberra Region has launched a crowdfunding campaign that will run for five weeks via Chuffed.org

If it can reach its goal of raising $150,000 from the Canberra community, Catherine says that Tender will then be able to “unlock” further support from The Snow Foundation and Social Enterprise Finance Australia (SEFA). 

The Green Shed has already donated $10,000.

“Tender Funerals has a focus on bringing death back into the community where it belongs,” Catherine says.

“If we can raise enough money through the community, we can gain more financial support towards finding premises and getting up and running.”

Catherine says the cost of a funeral can be debilitating, but believes funerals can be affordable without compromising on a thoughtful, personalised service. 

The average funeral cost through Tender will be between $3000 and $4,500, but will vary depending on what is chosen in terms of services and products, she says.

As well as keeping costs down, Tender can help families arrange any kind of farewell they would like, from green burials to more traditional services.

With the aim of creating an enriching experience to truly honour the deceased, Catherine says it gives families the option of looking after their loved one and helps them arrange a funeral and burial in whatever way they want.

Based on a successful model that started in Port Kembla, NSW, in 2016, Tender employs a funeral director, finance and admin staff, but otherwise it’s volunteer-run, Catherine says.

“The volunteers can help as much or as little as is needed, and they do this wonderful job of blending into the background,” she says.

“All details are discussed in advance, so that on the day it’s this beautiful dance, where the family understands what Tender is doing, and no one is interrupting the family at this moment. It’s their space, their funeral, their way.”

Tender Funerals volunteer coordinator and board member, Ellen Collins, says that as a culture people have become observers rather than participants in the rites around death.

“It can make for a healthier grieving process when we make that step forward and get involved in the preparation of the funeral,” Ellen says.

As part of Tender’s services, Catherine says they’ll continue with community education, improving “death literacy” through hosting death cafés and “walking the talk” information sessions, and start hosting death preparation workshops once they’ve secured premises.

“That idea is that we can talk about our options, prepare an advanced care directive and start talking about funerals with our families,” Catherine says. 

“We want to encourage people to talk openly about death, and even the kind of end-of-life support they would prefer. It could be ‘I can’t stand the smell of lavender’, or ‘If I’m in the hospital, don’t let the therapy pets come near me because I have a phobia of dogs’.

“It’s important to have these conversations in advance.”

Donate via chuffed.org/project/tender-funerals-canberra. A screening of the documentary “Tender” will be held at Palace Electric Cinemas at 6pm, Monday, April 19, followed by a Q&A with Tender Funerals’ founder Jenny Briscoe-Hough and the Tender Canberra team. It’s $15 per ticket, book here. For information, call 0410 618350, email tenderfuneralscanberraregion@gmail.com or follow Tender on Facebook.

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist.

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