Suncoast Community Legal Service was founded in November 1984 by local lawyers Ian McAlister, Bruce McDiarmid and Dennis Callinan. Initially operating out of the Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre at Cotton Tree, it hosted legal advice sessions on Monday evenings with start-up funding from the Sunshine Coast Law Association. The first roster consisted of 13 local volunteer lawyers.
In 1992, our Service incorporated as Suncoast Community Legal Service Inc. Co-ordinator, Edna Birleson began to expand services in Maroochydore to include Tuesday evenings and Wednesday lunchtimes.
In 2004, an outreach service commenced at the Noosa Leisure Centre. In 2008, an ‘outreach project’ expanded this model to five other communities – Caloundra, Nambour, Landsborough, Maleny and Pomona – allowing local lawyers an opportunity to volunteer within their own communities.
In 2007, an increase in government funding allowed a move to new premises at 7 Ocean Street, Maroochydore and employment of a full-time Coordinator and a Principal Solicitor. Provision of advice, referral and education services remained the primary focus, however, some limited casework could now be undertaken. A family lawyer, other administrative and project staff have since joined the team.
In 2013 our Service received Accreditation under the National Association of Legal Services (NACLC) scheme and our volunteer management committee continued to ensure sound governance of the organisation.
In 2014, the Service moved into purpose-built premises in the Maroochydore TAFE building as part of our partnership with the University of the Sunshine Coast Law School. The USC Law Clinic assists in training the next generation of Sunshine Coast lawyers.
In January 2016 the Service was honoured to be announced as Community Organisation of the Year – Sunshine Coast, as part of the Australia Day Awards hosted by Sunshine Coast Council.
As of November 2015 we commenced a contract as a regional service provider with QSTARS (Queensland Statewide Tenant Advice and Referral Service). This is a program designed to assist people requiring tenancy advice and further assistance not available through the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) call centre. Four experienced tenancy advice workers have been recruited to administer this service.