In a 2010 interview before retiring, former Socceroo Mark Viduka discussed his injury-plagued final season at Newcastle and being “very grumpy when I’m not doing what I love doing*.”

Perhaps Viduka is unique having had a career doing something he loves, but the sentiment – of feeling unfulfilled and directionless when injured and not at work – is one many people can relate to.

For AustralianSuper’s Head of Insurance, Richard Weatherhead, it’s a common experience for AustralianSuper members who have had to take some time out because of an injury, illness or disablement.

It’s also a time of life during which Weatherhead believes a super fund can make a difference.

“When a member comes to claim, they are in many ways at the most vulnerable time in their life’, he says.

They’re feeling exposed, they don’t know what the future holds, and they often don’t know whether they’ll be able to go back to their job or not”.

Weatherhead’s recognition of the challenging situation members can find themselves in is reflective of a wider approach at AustralianSuper to place member needs at the centre of the way we do insurance.

It’s an evolution the insurance teams at AustralianSuper have been overseeing since 2014, and it informs everything from policy design right through to benefit payments and beyond.

A focus on member needs

Changes to AustralianSuper’s insurance offer introduced in October 2017 are part of the ongoing evolution, with affordability, member preferences and insurance needs as key areas of focus.

“We’ve always used our size and scale to negotiate the best rates we can for our members, and that hasn’t changed”, says Weatherhead.

“The changes we’re introducing are in response to what members are telling us they need, including age-based cover that provides minimum levels of cover to meet their changing needs as they get older.

The new insurance design is backed up by how AustralianSuper carries out the claims process.

“We’re not only here to pay claims, but to give our members the support and attention they need at that time”, says Weatherhead.

Help getting back to work

If member needs, preferences and affordability are at the heart of AustralianSuper’s insurance offer, rehabilitation is where the rubber hits the road in terms of tangible actions to assist members.

”Up until about 2010, we were mostly focused on processing member claim applications, moving paperwork through to the insurer and distributing any insurance benefits.”

It simply wasn’t enough“, says Weatherhead.

“We’ve believed strongly for some time now that we need to help members with rehabilitation from injury, illness or disablement and that the best outcome is where they get back to work so they achieve the best possible financial outcome at retirement.”

It’s a focus that emerged out of member research that identified getting back to the work as a priority for members. It also highlighted the difficulties of finding work after a life changing injury, coping with a new disability and having to discuss options for getting back to work with their employer.

“We decided we had a moral obligation to help. So we now do things like job searches, services to assist with disability and negotiating job descriptions with employers to better suit a physical disability”, says Weatherhead.

Member’s champion

The interaction between AustralianSuper and the insurer is one that is largely hidden from members, and is a space where AustralianSuper acts as an advocate for members.

“We’re essentially the member’s advocate with the insurer who provides the cover”, explains Weatherhead.

Importantly, the trustee has a role to act on a member’s behalf in seeking the best claim outcome for that member.”

‘When you look at the rules and philosophy governing everything we do; our role is to absolutely be the member’s advocate in the claims process.’

Richard Weatherhead, AustralianSuper

Weatherhead says that AustralianSuper’s advocacy can also be seen in three other key areas.

The first is its 97% claim approval rate for disability under the fund’s income protection policy. Second, the total value of its claim payouts over the last decade, which is more than $2.2 billion. And third is the fund’s voluntary adoption two years ago of ten exclusive guiding principles on insurance, which include a member-centric claims experience and strong support for rehabilitation.

“We refer to them a lot, which is ideal because it ensures our decisions are guided by the need to put members first and put fairness at the heart of everything we do. That’s advocacy in action.”

AustralianSuper’s insurance changes from October 28, 2017
  • Costs will reduce for most members
  • New simplified, age-based cover
  • New benefit payment period of up to five years for Income Protection
  • Option to extend Income Protection if eligible
  • Simplified rules for claiming Income Protection


This information may be general financial advice which doesn’t take into account your personal objectives, situation or needs. Before making a decision about AustralianSuper, you should think about your financial requirements and refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement. AustralianSuper Pty Ltd ABN 94 006 457 987, AFSL 233788, Trustee of AustralianSuper ABN 65 714 394 898.