Queensland Coronial Legal Service (QCLS) has received a five-year funding boost to increase its capacity to assist Queensland families involved in any aspect of the coronial process.
QCLS was established to assist bereaved families who have questions about the circumstances of the death of their loved one and may be dealing with the shock, grief and loss they are experiencing and may feel unable to participate in the coronial process which they find overwhelming and alienating.
The service is delivered via a partnership between Caxton Legal Centre and Townsville Community Law.
The funding increase was announced by Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath as part of a package securing funds for the State’s community-based legal assistance services.
QCLS provides representation for family members throughout the coronial process including to obtain information from the Coroner’s Court, provide information and details of the family’s concerns to the Coroner and also appearing in some inquests.
It also assists families to connect with social work, counselling and other support services.
Queensland’s State Coroner Terry Ryan welcomed the Queensland Government’s decision to fund legal assistance for coronial matters for a further five years.
“The Queensland Audit Office’s 2018 report Delivering Coronial Services highlighted the need to enhance the support that families and witnesses receive in the coronial system,” Mr Ryan said.
“Coroners have been concerned that participants in the coronial process (particularly families) have difficulty navigating the system without support and their interests have not been adequately represented in comparison with other parties.
“The Court looks forward to working with the Queensland Coronial Legal Service in supporting the interests of families and other participants over the next five years.”
Brisbane woman Samantha Wood and her family were represented by QCLS following the death of her father-in-law Stephen Viner in a workplace accident.
“We felt as if our world had crumbled at our feet after the death, and the QCLS was always there to answer any question or concern,” Ms Wood said.
“The service’s assistance made our experience with the coronial inquest that bit more bearable while we were trying to pick up the pieces left behind.”
Caxton Legal Centre Coronial and Custodial Justice Practice Director Klaire Coles said the funding would expand the work of QCLS to support more families who face the difficult and traumatic task of working through the circumstances which have resulted in the death of a loved one.
“Research suggests that coronial processes can cause further trauma to family members already suffering significant grief,’’ Ms Coles said.
“A recent independent evaluation of our service found that QCLS was an important support to families in the coronial jurisdiction and that its compassionate approach is key to its effectiveness.”
Townsville Community Law Principal Solicitor Bill Mitchell said: “It is essential that families have an informed voice in coronial processes so that they are on an equal footing to other parties to the proceedings.”
A video outlining what QCLS can offer is available at: https://caxton.org.au/how-we-can-help/queensland-coronial-legal-service/