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Understanding Government Assistance for Bereaved Families in Australia

Losing a loved one is an emotionally devastating experience, and can be made harder by the financial pressures that may follow. During such difficult times, it’s important to know that support is available. In Australia, the government offers various forms of assistance to help bereaved families manage both immediate expenses and longer-term financial needs.

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What are the types of government assistance available for bereaved Australians?

1. Bereavement Payments

When a loved one passes away, managing the immediate financial obligations can be overwhelming. To alleviate this burden, the Australian Government provides Bereavement Payments through Centrelink. This one-off payment is designed to help families cover initial costs such as funeral expenses and immediate living costs during this challenging time.

To qualify for a Bereavement Payment, you must have been receiving a benefit or your deceased loved one must have been receiving a benefit such as the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, or Carer Payment. The relationship to the deceased and the type of benefit they or you were receiving play a key role in determining eligibility.

Bereavement Payments are an important support mechanism to help ease the immediate financial strain after a loss, allowing you to focus more on dealing with your grief and less on the financial implications of your loved one’s passing.

2. Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment

The Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment offers essential financial support to surviving partners of pensioners who were members of the Pension Bonus Scheme but did not claim their bonus before passing away. This payment provides a lump-sum amount to the bereaved partner, helping to mitigate the financial impact during the period after their loss.

Understanding the Pension Bonus Scheme

The Pension Bonus Scheme was a government initiative designed to reward older Australians who defer claiming the Age Pension and continue to work. Participants accrued a bonus for each year they delayed their pension, which can be claimed upon full retirement. The Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment is calculated based on the amount of bonus the deceased person would have received had they claimed it. This sum can help significantly in covering both immediate and ongoing expenses, providing some financial relief in an emotional time.

To be eligible for the Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment, the deceased individual must have been a member of the Pension Bonus Scheme, and must not have claimed the Age Pension or their Pension Bonus before passing away. The surviving partner needs to meet certain age and residency requirements, similar to those for the Age Pension, in order to receive the payment.

This payment acknowledges the contributions of the deceased in life, and provides support to the surviving partner, helping them through the potential financial challenges that come with the loss of a loved one.

Lean on the people who love you in times of grief

3. War Widow(er)’s Pension and Orphan’s Pension

The Australian Government recognises the sacrifices made by its service members and offers dedicated pensions to support the families of deceased veterans. The War Widow(er)’s Pension and Orphan’s Pension provide financial assistance to help maintain the well-being of these families after the loss of their loved ones.

War Widow(er)’s Pension

This pension is designed to support the surviving spouses or de facto partners of members of the Australian Defence Force who have died as a result of war service or eligible defence service.

The War Widow(er)'s Pension is a tax-free income stream, and beneficiaries may also be eligible for additional benefits, such as supplementary income support, health care cards, and counselling services.

Orphan’s Pension

The Orphan’s Pension supports children of deceased veterans where the death was caused by war service or eligible defence service. It is available to dependent children under 16 years of age, or up to 25 if they are studying full-time.

The pension includes regular payments to help cover the costs of raising the child/ren, and health care benefits and counselling services are also available to assist with ongoing welfare and education costs.

Applications for both the War Widow(er)’s Pension and Orphan’s Pension can be submitted through the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA), either online, via phone, or by visiting a DVA office. These pensions are part of Australia's commitment to honouring those who have served the country, by supporting their families after they have made the ultimate sacrifice.

4. Support Services and Counselling

Losing a loved one is an emotionally taxing experience, and coping with grief is a unique personal experience that differs from one person to another. Recognising this, the Australian Government provides several counselling and support services aimed at offering emotional and psychological help to individuals and families during these times.

Centrelink Social Workers are readily available to provide support and information about additional services and benefits for those dealing with the loss of a loved one. For broader family-related issues, including grief management, Family and Relationship Services offer specialised support through various community-based agencies; while the Medicare system facilitates access to mental health professionals, including psychologists, social workers, or counsellors, helping individuals manage grief effectively. These services assist with grief management by offering professional guidance to help individuals process their emotions healthily.

Support groups, often facilitated by these services, provide a comforting space where individuals can share experiences and feelings with others who have faced similar losses; educational resources, including workshops and informational materials on bereavement, can help individuals understand and navigate their grief.

To access these services, individuals can contact Centrelink for connections to social workers and information on community services. Visiting a general practitioner is also a helpful step, as GPs can provide referrals to mental health professionals under Medicare, while community health clinics can be a resource for local support groups and counselling options.

Support services make space for emotional healing and practical support, helping individuals and families to navigate through their grief with compassion and understanding, and are an integral part of community care and social responsibility.

Signs of support
Help is always available, if you ask for it or not

Whether it's financial aid to help with immediate expenses or counselling services to assist in managing grief, taking advantage of these supports can make the mourning process a little bit easier to bare. Seeking help is a sign of strength, and it's ok to use every available resource to find yourself again in difficult and emotionally devastating times.

Reach out for support when you need it; that's what it's there for.

Last updated 02nd May 2024
Laura Barling
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