A North Queensland community legal centre has put its hand up to lead a state-wide project which aims to build the capacity of the legal assistance sector to continue working during disasters.
Townsville Community Law principal solicitor Bill Mitchell said the centre had secured funding for a project aimed to build the capacity of Queensland’s legal assistance sector to work within each stage of the disaster lifecycle – prevention, preparedness, response and recovery – and ultimately improve outcomes for communities affected by disaster.
“We are funded to develop a model for the legal assistance sector that articulates an appropriate role for legal assistance in disaster management and operations,” he said.
“Hopefully, this will help to ensure the role of legal assistance is recognised within the disaster management community.”
Mr Mitchell said the model would be likely to include best practices around models of collaborative service delivery, regional service planning, induction, training and competency for the legal assistance sector.
“It doesn’t seek to address the substantive legal issues that people affected by disaster experience, though an initial desktop review will necessarily look at disaster legal needs as part of the bigger picture,” he said.
“The expectations are that it will be a state-wide project in its scope and outcomes.”
The project is expected to use state and national disaster management frameworks and seek to align them with legal assistance approach in a “simpatico way”.
“Ultimately, the combination of those two approaches should give us a way forward for the legal assistance sector that is meaningful within the disaster management community and useful to guide legal assistance work throughout the various parts of the disaster lifecycle.
“Much of the work of the legal assistance sector has been in the post-impact relief and very early recovery phase, and in the recovery and reconstruction phase.
“However, given the cyclical nature of disasters, we see real utility in ensuring the legal assistance sector does more than merely responds, but uses its resources in a methodical way before, during and after disasters.”