Basic Rights Queensland (BRQ) has reached a milestone for its Rural and Remote project in the Gulf – by visiting three communities, three times.
The specialist community legal centre has visited the Mornington Island, Doomadgee, and Wujal Wujal and Hopevale communities three times since July last year to deliver the project, which addresses an unmet need for social security advice for people in rural and remote Queensland.
BRQ CEO Kara Cook said the project partnered with 20 organisations, half being controlled by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, and involved a model that provided training, resources and professional legal advice to community centres and organisations.
Kara said the project began in 2021 with staff travelling initially to the regional centres of Normanton, Roma and Hervey Bay, before contingency funding allowed it to expand to the Far North and Gulf regions last year, and focus on Aboriginal communities.
Community advice and engagement sessions were also held in regional centres such as Mt Isa, Cloncurry and Burketown, in partnership with traditional owners such as the Kalkadoon, Mitakoodi and Gangalidda Garawa peoples, she said.
She said a blended team of lawyers, social workers, community engagement workers and students typically spent three to four days on a visit to each community.
“Our primary servicing is in the delivery of free legal advice clinics for Centrelink issues, in particular appeals under administrative law in the Social Security Act,” Kara said.
“We have done this co-servicing with Services Australia Remote Servicing team now in Doomadgee, Wujul Wujul and Hopevale.
“In co-servicing with Services Australia we see tens of thousands of dollars in arrears/backpay forwarded into the community within days.
“We also work collaboratively with our valued partners and affiliates at ICAN, ATSILS and 54 Reasons, as well as Aboriginal councils and traditional owners and justice groups.
“We open representative files where appropriate and have provided a weekly duty lawyer service in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for rural and remote clients.”
Kara said a particular project focus was helping those who were not receiving a payment and who faced barriers to claims; and gathering medical evidence for Disability Support Pension claims and appeals for people with complex conditions.
She said there were a multitude of benefits for all parties involved in the project, including the development of strategic stakeholder relationships and enhanced referrals; and tailored servicing.
“Most importantly, we see the economic security of vulnerable people become more stable and access to our services become effectively statewide,” she said.
BRQ plans to expand its outreach work to include Woorabinda and Rockhampton as its next step.
Basic Rights Queensland is a specialist community legal centre which provides free legal advice and advocacy statewide to vulnerable people in matters related to social security, disability discrimination and women’s employment.