Sydney woman Kay found it very distressing after real estate companies persisted in sending mail addressed to her late uncle after she notified them of his passing.

It’s estimated that in the first year after a loved-one’s death, their grieving family will receive an average of 68 mailed letters containing promotional content.

Understandably, this can be an insensitive and hurtful reminder of their loss, and the reason why The Australian Bereavement Register was established.

The service is completely free to members of the public and as managing director Glenn Harrison tells SBS, it’s designed to “help to put a stop to all of this unwanted promotional direct mail that can unfortunately be sent through to a deceased person following their death.

“Throughout our lives our names and addresses are collected by companies for marketing purposes and it’s just impossible to know exactly how many organisations hold our contact name and address information and certainly contacting these companies every time an unwanted item of promotional mail arrives can be a dreadful burden on the bereaved family members,” Mr Harrison says.

“Of course there are some people who will simply ignore any of these communications but certainly for a lot of family members or friends of the deceased, these can act as a very, very painful reminder.”

One woman’s experience

Sydney woman Kay was recommended the service by her funeral director following the death of her uncle two years ago and she tells SBS she “didn’t realise how much I would need that”.
Kay continued to receive mail addressed to her late uncle from charity groups and real estate agents and began individually notifying them of his passing. Unfortunately however, she says “they were persistent, my personal experience was very distressing”.

She later began forwarding the mail to the Bereavement Register but still found that at least two real estate agents continued to contact her “even up until last month”.

“Some people may not get upset, they might sell the house and never see the mail but that wasn’t the case for me,” she explains. Kay kept a record of the companies sending her late uncle mail and tells SBS she filled an entire page in her notebook.

The Bereavement Register is funded by the direct mail companies themselves, as it’s also in their interest to delete a deceased person’s contact details from their records.

As Mr Harrison explains, “it saves them cost by not sending an item of mail through the Australia Post network”.

“It also helps them reduce the damage caused by their branding, and there’s an environmental impact as well… a staggering 9.5 million items of unwanted promotional mail

[are] going through the Australia Post network every year at a cost to Australian businesses of around $19 million.”

* This article first appeared in the SBS Life/ Family section of their website and was published on the 8th September 2016