Hello, everyone. This is Law for Community Workers on the Go, a podcast for community and health workers. I want to begin by acknowledging this recording was made on the land of the Widjabul Wiabul people of the Bundjalung nation and on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. I pay my respects to elders past and present and to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people listening to this podcast.
Have you lost a loved one recently? If so, you might want to listen to this podcast episode about the Australian Death Notification Service. It is a new service created to ease the administrative burden people experience after a loved one has died. My name is Bridget Barker and I work in the Community Legal Education Branch at Legal Aid New South Wales. In this episode, I speak to Matt from the Partnerships and Engagement Team within New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriages about this new service that is offered Australia wide.
Hi, Matt, thanks for joining me on the podcast today. Would you please introduce yourself and tell our audience a bit about your service and the work that you do?
Absolutely. So my name is Matt, I'm one of the partnerships and engagement advisors within the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. We form the broader part of the national product team, which is rolling out some fantastic products that will be available Australia wide. Our national products team actually sits within Births, Deaths,Marriages, who sit under the New South Wales Department of Customer Service. But we do get to exist in this really unique space, we're based in New South Wales but we're able to roll these products out across Australia and really make a difference to a lot of people's lives with the buy in from all of the other Births, Deaths & Marriages, registries across Australia.
Today, I'm here to talk about the Australian Death Notification Service. And that's actually a really fundamental service in what we're doing to try and ease that burden that people experience around death administration and really give people a sense of direction, and even a sense of control and the ability to drive some of those communications when someone dies. And actually help be proactive when we're closing or transferring accounts.
Matt I imagine the service was created to meet an existing need. Could you tell our audience why the service came to be?
Absolutely as with a lot of government products and products in general, there's a lot of research that goes into the creation of these products. So we went out and we talked to a lot of people who had recently been through that deceased administration process and who had lost someone quite close to them recently. And we wanted to learn, What were the main pain points? And what did they have to go through? to make sure that the direction that we wanted to take with the service was going to actually deliver results for people going through this. We actually found the whole death administration process can take well in excess of 40 hours, to get in touch with the right organisations and the right people and to have those really important conversations, and they share this painful story time and time and time again. So, we wanted to create a service that essentially answered those questions and solve those problems. When we were talking to people that were going through this process, we found that they really didn't feel like they were in control of the journey and they really felt like they didn't know where to start or even who to get in touch with. So the Australian Death Notification Serviceis actually here to answer those questions. It helps people be really proactive in death administration, it also helps put them in touch with the right organisations and gives them the ability to select from a wide range of partner organisations, it's really there to try and help reduce that burden considerably, and help people take control.
Yes, 40 hours is certainly a significant amount of time for a grieving person to have to invest in terms of time. Could you tell us a little bit more about the Australian Death Notification Serviceand how it actually works?
Of course, so it's a one stop online platform, that's essentially a simple, secure and online method that someone can use to notify multiple organisations of a death, whilst only having to provide the information to us once. When you get a death certificate after someone has died. You have all the details on there that are required to then access and use the service. So that's first name, last name, date of birth, and date of death. Once you have those pieces of information, you're then able to go on and start using the service. You enter all those credentials and that's verified against our back end single source of truth for government death data in Australia. We capture over 168,000 records a year of death, and our service is verifying against that constantly. So it's providing our partners with up to date information that is verified against that service, but it's also giving our users a way to just share that information once and have it be shown as legitimate and have it be shown as verified to our partners. Once they enter those details, they're then able to go through and start using the service. So selecting the partners as well as entering their details as the notifier, allowing our partners to get back in touch with them and ask those questions about the next step. So, What would you like to do with this account? How would you like to progress from here?
Matt, you mentioned details that people need that would ordinarily be found on a death certificate, would a person have to have the death certificate issued in order to access the service?
Yeah. So when someone's going through the ADNS, that's actually the first question they'll be asked “Has a death certificate being issued for the person that's just died? So typically, that process can take anywhere between 14 days and a couple of weeks longer than that. And what we're doing there is when that death certificate has been issued, and administered, that means that the death is registered within our single source of truth, which our ADNS pivots off, so they do need to have that death certificate in front of them that will typically carry all the relevant information such as first name, last name, date of birth and date of death needed to progress through the service.
You've referred to “single source of truth” a couple of times, do you mean the registry of births, deaths and marriages, when you say single source of truth?
Yeah, pretty much I'm getting tied up in my lingo. So each registry of births, deaths and marriages in Australia puts together what's called a fact of death file that is culminated from all the information that is put forward by the authorised bodies when a death occurs. So pretty much every so often, we collate that information, and then actually send it from each state and territory around Australia to Queensland where they actually house that single source of truth I mentioned. So that's the Australian Death Check or ADC, if you like acronyms, and that houses all that data that we use to pivot off with the ADNS
So on that point Matt is the death notification service and Australia wide service or limited to New South Wales?
It absolutely is Australia wide, we just happen to run it out of New South Wales, but it is championed by all registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages across the country.
So Matt, how many organisations have signed up to the Australian death notification service?
Yeah, we actually have just over 75 organisations on the service now. And that's a really strong representation of banks, superannuation and utilities, in particular. Those businesses that are absolutely essential to notify over death and that number is growing every week. We've actually changed our partnership strategy just a little bit now that we have a really good representation from those categories. And we're now actually here to really listen to what our notifiers are telling us. When someone does go on the service to make that notification, they can actually let us know if there's a business or an organisation that wasn't on the service. And we actually receive all of that feedback. And we make sure we read every single one of them to make sure that we're able to look at who is best to go out and reach out to and get on the service, first and foremost.
So, at the moment, we've been making a massive push here in New South Wales to contact local councils. And we're starting to send that push around the country as well to all other states and territories. And then, we're actually on our way down to Canberra next week to have a chat to Access Canberra. So it's really important for us to make sure that we're listening to our user base and making sure that people are letting us know who they'd like us to get in contact with. And we're actually following through on that to make sure we deliver the best service we possibly can.
That's great to know. So who can use this service? Is it restricted to certain people?
Yeah, so the service is actually relatively open, we allow pretty much anyone to go on and use the service provided they have the right information in front of them. As I mentioned, everything on the service is verified and checked against that Australian Death Check which means that people have to enter verified information to go through the service and that journey. So typically, about 75% of our users have an official role in the death administration process. So that might be an executor, or administrator. We do actually see a few other roles come through, we actually open it to friends, family members, relatives, even neighbours, as well and then also, of course, solicitors. So all of those groups are welcome to use the service and all of our partners have an understanding that the person that's making that notification may not actually have an official role. But they do have that official death certificate and that official death data in front of them to make sure that we're providing verified information.
I imagine that is useful for members of the community who may not have an official Will and that flexibility would be helpful to the community.
Yeah, you're exactly right. We try and keep the service as focused on our users as possible. We try and make it flexible, really approachable and just easy to get through, as I mentioned before, it’s certainly a really, really difficult time. So we're not here to make that any harder than what it needs to be. We're actually here just to try and simplify things for everyone.
Once you have the death certificate and you can use the service, what notification might you receive, once you've gone through the process of using the service?
In a way we refer to it kind of like online shopping, and that you receive a receipt at the end of your user journey. But also, once you receive that receipt, that means that the organisations you selected have also received that notification on your little receipt screen, You'll actually see there's a reference number, and that'll be consistent across every single organisation, you notify, to try and just make sure that we're helping our users keep track of everything. And they have that one number that they can refer to.
Apart from the death certificate. Are there any other identification documents that a person might need when they use the service?
No, not at all, we allow users to actually enter their details as the notifier. This is what's really, really good about the service, is that it enables our partner organisations to reach back out and get in touch with the notifier at the end of that ADNS journey. We don't have any requirements for identification documents and don't see that becoming a part of the service in the future.
You've indicated that certain information has to be provided, which is ordinarily found on a death certificate. What kind of privacy protections are there for people, when they enter that information?
The information that people provide of the deceased actually has different privacy restrictions to someone that is still living. So we of course, abide by all of the legal parameters around that. And as a service, we actually don't retain any data, be it notifier data or the data of someone that's died. That data is only used for verification virus seamless API, which is a sort of system to system interface. With that single source of truth I mentioned in the same token, we actually also don't retain the details of the notifier. And also our partner organisations are obliged not to send that data outside of Australia. And they also delete that data once they're finished with that process. Outside of that as well, given that we are sending the data to our partners via either an API, which is that system to system integration that I mentioned, or via an email. We actually have the most secure encryption in our emails that is currently possible worldwide. So it's called Gov DC. And we actually operate that within all of our government software, but also the Australian Death Notification Service. So rest assured our data is safe and secure and going where it needs to.
So can you tell our audience how the service actually works? Would you be able to do a bit of a talk through of a step by step?
Yeah, absolutely. As I mentioned before, we have that landing page which people can find sort of a multitude of different ways. We do have a Google AdWords campaign, which should be pretty familiar for most people. We appear at the top of Google when you search something like what to do when someone dies or make a death notification. We target words and phrases like that to make sure that people are finding us when they need to.
So when someone does actually land on our homepage, we have a neat little video that talks about why the service is what it is today and then how it can actually help our users as well. And we also detail those five steps. So that's entering the details of the person that's died, verifying those credentials, choosing which organisations they'd like to notify, entering their details as the notifier and then sending that notification off.
So as they scroll down through that homepage, they actually also have a link to a “Finding Information Guide”. So that lets them know just where they can actually look to find the information they might need for this service. If you think about where you keep your own documents. So maybe they're in your email, maybe they're in your wallet, some bank cards and everything like that. In your filing cabinet might be your superannuation information, also latest utility bills and telco bills. So we actually help people go out and find that information of their own accord just before they go through that journey of the service.
After they click the little “Get Started” button at the bottom of the page. The first question they're asked is whether or not that death certificate has been issued. If they select “No”, they don't actually have one, we have a link to how to find out how to get that death certificate. But if they select “yes”, they're able to progress on to the next step. So the first question we ask after that is where did this person die? So if I can give an example, as we go through, I can say that this person actually died in New South Wales. And we're going to be entering the details for James Johnson. So we'll put in the given name box, we'll select James and in the surname box, we'll select Johnson, we do have a middle name box there as well, in case they need it.
Will it still work if you don't enter a middle name, even if there is one?
Yeah, so the middle name field is optional. Typically, that first name surname and the date of birth and date of death are enough to verify on that single source of truth. So next, we asked for the date of birth and date of death. So they enter those as per the details on the death certificate in front of them. And then the user gets to this stage where they get a big green tick that says we've matched your record, and you're right to proceed. So next, we asked for a last known residential address. This is gonna really help when we're talking to our utility companies when we're talking to our telecommunications companies as well. And we actually ask whether the person that's died did own that property as well, just trying to give our partners as much information as possible. If the person that's died did own a business, we can actually elect to notify of their ABN or ACN. And then I mentioned before as well, if they do actually hold any accounts in other names, for example, Matt, or Matthew, they can enter that option in here. And we also have parameters to enter email address and phone number of the person that's died as well.
As they're going through next, we have this kind of big accordion section where there's all these tabs that you can blow out, and you can scroll down and look through all those organisations. So if I'm thinking through it, I'm looking at all the information that's in front of me, I might select ANZ to notify, and this person might have had a home loan with perhaps the Commonwealth Bank. So we can actually select that here as well. Going through our superannuation companies, we might have had a superannuation account with the Australian Retirement Trust. And James might have also had his power through Energy Australia. So we kind of had this big long list of services, utility providers and financial institutions that we can notify.
There is that little button down the bottom that says, if there's an organisation that you'd like to notify, that's not actually on the service, you can let them know here. So we get to review that information before clicking “Next”, and we have the option to go back at any point in time. So after that, then the notify the person that's using the service is then prompted to put in their information. So if we're doing it for James Johnson, maybe it's Sarah Johnson, his next of kin, putting in that information. And she's going to enter her phone number and email address just to give our partner organisations a way to reach out and get in touch with her. So if she does have an official role, as I mentioned, she is the next of kin the executor in this role. For example, she can select “Yes”, but if she was to select “No”, we do actually have that range of other roles that I mentioned before. So might be a relative, a friend and employer or even other we'll allow people to actually fill in that box of their own accord.
So at the end, Sara, as the notified gets this big window where she can look through all the information she's provided about James, the organisation she's selected, as well as her details as the notifier. She then takes a privacy clause was actually says that she understands that the details that she's providing here today will only be sent to the organisations that she's selected and they will contact her regarding that information. So most users select about four to five of our partners, and all four or five of those organisations will actually reach out to her via email or phone. So this is pretty important to know that she's giving them her details for this purpose, but no other.
And then she clicks to “confirm and notify” and that notification is sent off. And two things actually happen. In that instance, she'll get an email letting her know that her notification has been successful. And then also the partner organisations just selected will receive that notification as well and be obliged to get back in touch with her within 10 business days.
Thanks, Matt. That's a really clear explanation of the process. Sometimes when people are grieving, they may not be able to find details of all the organisations the deceased might have had interactions with or accounts with. Can someone go in a second time if they realise that there's an additional organisation that they should notify?
Absolutely. So like I said, this service is really user focused and we know that within this cloud of grief, things can get missed. You can also find documentation later. It can be really difficult times we want to make it as easy as possible. At the moment, you can go back into that service more than a few times to select the organisations that you might have missed previously, just using the credentials that you'd entered that first time around
And Matt, what can people do if they don't have easy access to the internet, or if they might need assistance to access the internet? Are there any alternative ways they might be able to use the service?
This is something that we're really focused on in the next couple of months giving our users alternate pathways to reach our service. One of the key parts at the moment is that it's a simple secure online service that enables a user to go online and notify multiple organisations and then manage that entire transaction through their email address or phone number. Currently, some of our partners actually do help people through this journey as well just as part of their customer service experience. So we have seen quite a few users actually go to some of these institutions to then have them help our users walk through that service.
It's great. It sounds like the service is very open to suggestions for improvements. So how long has the service been running for now and what kind of an uptake have you heard of people using the service?
At the start of 2021, we went live out of pilot stage and actually started promoting the service in small bits here and there as we increased our partner base. And it's kind of been a chicken and the egg scenario of your like your metaphors, where we see an increased user uptake and then also an increased partner base. So the more people that come and use the service, the more or partners that actually tend to onboard and receive that data from us. And so it's been growing exponentially since then. We've seen just over 11,000 users of the service now. And I mentioned each one of those users actually select between four and five organisations on the service, that's pretty much our average. So that means we've actually sent over 50,000 notifications to our partner organisations helping simplify that death administration process. his service is free for not just our users, but also our partners. So we're really here to try and just simplify the process and connect our users to our partners. We're not looking for anything outside of that. We're just here to try and spread the word and help make this process easier.
Matt, this podcast forms part of Legal Aid's Law for community worker series, would you have any tips for community workers who might be assisting somebody to use the service?
So probably the best tips we can give you when using this service is to make sure you go and find all that information upfront, just to make sure that it's all ready to go and you only have to go through the journey, just that once it keeps things really easy for you. And then it also helps simplify the journey for our partners when they reaching back out to you. So when we talk about all that information upfront, like I mentioned before, have a look through our “Finding Information Guide” on the website. And you'll see there that there's all the different places that you can look to find the information relevant to the service when we're trying to make that notification of someone's death. So we're thinking all of the documents and filing cabinets, wallets, emails, even text messages on their phone. I know my utility company reaches out to me by phone quite a lot. So we can look in all these different ways to make sure that we're actually going in with the most amount of information in front of us and really trying to keep things simple.
Outside of that, when you're looking through a participating organisation section and selecting the organisations to notify. I mentioned all of those organisations will actually be reaching out and getting back in touch with you. So selecting the right organisations that are actually relevant, and making educated decisions will actually help you and help reduce your own personal admin because otherwise you might have an exorbitant amount of organisations reaching back out to you and then sort of overcomplicating things when there are no accounts present. So again, based off the information in front of you, and then just try and reach out and make that notification.
And we might just finish up by getting you to read out the details of the website, so people know where to go.
Of course. So our website is deathnotification.gov.au. And you'll find all of our support services, all of the guys to using the service, including the video on that website. And in the Show Notes Bridget is actually going to put in a link to our YouTube video that walks you through the service, and actually shows you how to use it just in case you get stuck. But it is a really simple five steps and we've designed it to be as easy as possible for everyone that's able to use it.
That's great. Is there anything else you'd like to add Matt before we finish?
No, I don't think so. Thank you so much for having us on board your podcast today. It's been an absolute pleasure to be here.
Thanks for joining us and for letting everybody know about this important service. Thanks, Bridget.
There is a link to the Australian death notification service website in the show notes for this episode. You can find this and other podcasts in our law for community workers series on legal aid's podbean channel or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening