The Queensland Coronial Legal Service (QCLS) has received a five-year funding boost to increase its capacity to assist families throughout Queensland who are involved in any aspect of the coronial process.
Bereaved families may have many questions about the circumstances of the death of their loved one. In addition to the shock, grief and loss they are experiencing, a family member may feel unable to participate in the coronial process which they find overwhelming and alienating. The QCLS can assist families through this process.
Brisbane woman Samanth Wood and her family were represented by the 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 QCLS was always there to answer any question or concern. 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.”
QCLS is delivered via a partnership between Caxton Legal Centre and Townsville Community Law. The funding increase was announced by 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 Coroners Court, provide information and details of the family’s concerns to the coroner and also appearing in some inquests. QCLS also assists families to connect with social work, counselling and other support services.
State Coroner, Terry Ryan, said that the Coroners Court of Queensland 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,” he 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.”
Klaire Coles is Director of the Coronial and Custodial Justice Practice at Caxton Legal Centre.
“We are pleased to be able to expand our work in the Queensland Coronial Legal Service to support more families as they face the difficult and traumatic task of working through the circumstances which have resulted in the death of a loved one,” she said.
“Research suggests that coronial processes can cause further trauma to family members already suffering significant grief. 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.”
Bill Mitchell, Principal Solicitor at Townsville Community Law, 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”.
Media contacts: Klaire Coles, Director of the Coronial and Custodial Justice Practice, Caxton Legal Centre, Tel: (07) 3214 6333
Bill Mitchell, Principal Solicitor, Townsville Community Law, Tel: (07) 4721 5511