Palaszczuk Government praises work of Mackay Community Legal Centre
Published Thursday, 13 April, 2017 at 01:00 PM
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for Training and Skills
The Honourable Yvette D'Ath
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath has today acknowledged the hard work of Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre, which was recently allocated about $1 million to provide essential legal assistance to the community and will be a vital service for the months ahead as the region recovers and rebuilds.
Since Cyclone Debbie hit the region, Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre has been helping tenants in Mackay, Bowen, Cannonvale and Proserpine that have been faced with a range of legal issues, including assisting those who were renting property that suffered damage or was destroyed.
“Community Legal Centres play a vital role in providing legal assistance to those who need it most in our local communities,” Mrs D’Ath said.
“Recently the Palaszczuk Government announced $51.3 million of combined State and Federal Government funding for 36 Community Legal Centres across Queensland for the next three financial years.
“This included $999,944 for Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre.”
Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre Principal Solicitor and Manager Jessica Brake said since Cyclone Debbie hit, their service had already started assisting tenants who were experiencing issues with their damaged rental properties.
“This is just one example of many legal issues that residents can face following a natural disaster,” Miss Brake said.
“At this stage the demand for legal services is not at its peak, but past experience shows that the legal issues will surface in the coming weeks and months, as people get back on their feet.
“Our three solicitors have been working with local residents, including offering appointments on the ground in Bowen, Proserpine and Cannonvale.
“We have already assisted several residents who have been affected by Cyclone Debbie, and expect to help many more over the coming weeks.
“Our 30 volunteers are willing to provide additional voluntary legal assistance during this time so that we can prioritise assistance to those most effected by the cyclone. This will mean residents will not have to be placed on our current five-week waiting list if they need advice. Our tenancy service is funded under a different program and appointments can be given within 2 – 3 days.”
Mrs D’Ath said that while Queensland had increased its contribution in funding for Community Legal Centres over the next three years, there was still a funding shortfall because of the Turnbull Government’s decision to slash $2 million from Queensland’s services.
“Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre has maintained its funding and has not experienced any cuts. But there are many other centres across Queensland that have experienced cuts this round because of the Turnbull Governent’s slash to funding.
“As we’ve seen here in Mackay, these Community Legal Centres do amazing work and can’t afford to have their funding cut any further. I urge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to not turn his back on vulnerable Queenslanders.”
Mrs D’Ath praised the hard working staff at Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre, which was working alongside Legal Aid Queensland in providing support to people affected by Cyclone Debbie.
“Legal Aid Queensland has organised a coordinated response to areas affected by Cyclone Debbie, offering support to people who may have legal issues arising out of property or car damage, insurance claims, tenancy issues, debt, employment, disputes over damaged dividing fences, and access to services such as electricity.
“The Palaszczuk Government knows how vital legal assistance services are, and that is why we provided $70.5 million to Legal Aid Queensland this financial year, and will increase this to $76.6 million next financial year.
“This is on top of the funding we provide to Community Legal Centres.”
Queensland Law Society President Christine Smyth said the legal profession had a long history of providing pro bono services of their own volition generally, but more so in times of natural disaster.
“Solicitors are an essential part of the fabric within the communities they work in,” she said.
“Our local practitioners know firsthand the impact that a disaster such as this has on a community as it affects them also, and I have been inspired by the resilience of our members during this difficult time.”
Media contact: Pam Frost 0437 696 809