The Centre receives funding from the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, which is administered by Legal Aid Queensland.
To enable the most disadvantaged in the Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday regions to understand the legal system, their rights and to enforce those rights by adopting a holistic approach, including incorporating advice, community legal education and to seek legal change where there are inequalities in the law.
HISTORY OF MACKAY REGIONAL COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRE INC
The establishment of the centre was an initiative of Domestic Violence Resource Service (Mackay & Region) Inc. (DVRS) and the local community. This service identified that a gap existed in the provision of legal services in the Mackay region and that many people within the community found themselves disadvantaged within the mainstream legal system.
DVRS sought approval from the Department of Communities for a change of purpose of funding. This was successful and enabled them to employ a Project Worker from August 2002 to December 2003. The Project Worker determined there was a high need for a community legal centre and assisted with it being established. The MRCLC was incorporated on 24 July 2003, held its first Annual General Meeting in October 2003 and was officially launched on 10 December 2003 by The Honourable Rod Welford MP, Queensland Attorney General and Minister for Justice.
Funding from DVRS ceased in December 2003, however committed volunteers from within the legal, welfare and community sector indicated their willingness to contribute to the service. Along with the invaluable contribution of George Street Neighbourhood Centre Inc., management committee, staff and volunteers, this service commenced service delivery to clients through Legal Advice Evenings.
The first Legal Advice Evening session was held on 4 February 2004 at George Street Neighbourhood Centre, which is now known as The Neighbourhood Hub.
In June 2005, MRCLC was successful in obtaining recurrent funding from the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney-General. This funding enabled the service to move to its own premises and to employ a full-time solicitor and administration officer, allowing the centre to further develop the community's access to the legal service.
MRCLC opened its new premises at Suite 4, City Court Arcade, 80 Victoria Street, Mackay in January 2006. These premises were officially opened by The Honourable Linda Lavarch, Queensland Attorney General and Minister for Justice on 18 August 2006.
Since 2009 the MRCLC has received some funding from the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department towards assisting separating parents in family law matters.
From July 2011 a solicitor from the MRCLC has travelled one day a month to Proserpine and Cannonvale to provide legal advice in person in the Whitsundays. This service was extended in March 2014 to also include Bowen in a 2 day trip once a month.
In the 2011-2012 and 2012 - 2013 financial years the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney-General provided funding towards the expenses of operating a migration service by a volunteer migration agent.
Our funding is administered by the State Program Manager, Legal Aid Queensland, pursuant to the Community Legal Services Program.
The MRCLC began providing advice and assistance under the Queensland Statewide Tenant Advice and Referral Service (QSTARS) program from October 2015, domestic violence duty lawyer program from October 2015 and the Mental Health Review Tribunal Representation Service from March 2017. There are now 2 legal advice evenings delivered most months staffed by volunteers. Advice and some casework is provided by employed solicitors during ordinary business hours.
The centre commenced operating from our current premises in The Dome from 21 June 2019.
This centre continues to be reliant on volunteers, particularly in order to provide the Legal Advice Evenings where solicitors, barristers, social workers, migration agents and evening co-ordinators operate these evenings.
In addition, Practical Legal Training law students and others provide valuable assistance to the work of the centre. With the invaluable contribution of volunteers, today the centre is able to offer a limited, but very necessary service to our regional community.
The objectives of the MRCLC are:
- to provide a free and accessible legal service
- to seek legal and social change in order to create a more just society
- to address inequalities within the law and society
- to promote legal education
- to provide a legal service that recognises the social/welfare issues facing its clients
- to provide crisis counselling and support and/or referral to appropriate agencies
- to encourage community participation in the delivery of the legal services it provides
- to develop and support self-help strategies and alternate methods of dispute resolution
for the benefit of disadvantaged and marginalised people in the Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac Regional Council areas.
COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRES
In Queensland, community legal centres (CLCs) have over 30 years of service delivery experience providing information, advice, referral, community legal education, casework and representation to the community. There are 34 independent community legal centres in Queensland and over 200 throughout Australia.
In 2017/2018 CLCs provided over 470,000 services to people across Australia. In 2016/17 CLCs nationally helped more than 211,991 people.
Further information about community legal centres is available at http://www.naclc.org.au/cb_pages/clcs.php.