WHEN Jenny Briscoe-Hough faced the difficult task of having to plan her mother's funeral, she realised some "unpleasant truths" about the industry, so she decided to do something about it.
Jenny is the founder of Tender Funerals in Port Kembla in NSW's Illawarra - a based a community-based, not-for-profit funeral home which aims to provide more affordable and transparent funerals that offer more control over the process to families and loved ones.
Less than four years after the home was founded, there are plans to introduce similar services across the country, including communities in the ACT, NSW's Newcastle and Mid-North Coast, Perth in WA, Far North Queensland and Tasmania.
"When my mother died, I realised a lot of things about the funeral industry - I didn't have any idea how much it would cost and had never really asked," she said.
"We did a lot of things like washing and dressing her ourselves and she had her own burial plot, but it still cost $10,000 and a lot of the costs weren't explained."
She said she started Tender Funerals to increase transparency in the industry and to make sure people who used the service were aware of all options available to them.
"We're not trying to sell anything - people are encouraged to bring their own flowers and can participate in the process as much, or as little as they like."
Jenny said she was shocked to learn how many people went into debt to provide a funeral for their loved ones.
While the average funeral costs $8000 and some can cost up to $20000, the average cost of a service arranged through Tender Funerals was $3500, with the most expensive being $8000.
She said a lot of people were unaware they did not need a celebrant, could use a van instead of a hearse, or could host funerals at their homes.
"It's about taking the stigma out of the situation," she said.
"If people want a full service, they can have that, but they will only pay what it costs."
"Even if you choose to have a traditional funeral with a celebrant, the fact that you've been able to choose to do that makes a difference."
She also said those using the service were encouraged to take their time and not rush the process.
"It shouldn't be a time of anxiety. It's already a difficult time," she said.
She said while some things such as the cost of buying a burial plot could not be controlled, Tender Funerals aimed to give people as much control as possible.
She also advised people against signing up for funeral insurance schemes due to constantly rising premiums.
"People would be better off just opening a bank account and saving than paying off insurance for years."
She said not-for-profit organisation Social Ventures Australia was working on a new funeral saver plan, which would be available soon.
For details call 4276-1611 or 0413-713-776 or click here.