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Leading island businesswoman, Petrae McLean, believes the islands are lacking in Government services, particularly Centrelink support.

She says that collectively the islands have the same population of a medium-sized Queensland town, but is lacking the services that are usually available to similar-sized communities.

She says the lack of services, particularly applies to Centrelink.

“Our community has been hit hard, with families cut back to 12 hours per week or 24 hours per fortnight.

“There are lots and lots of Centrelink errors to get fixed and no Centrelink assistance on the islands, and their phone wait times are now measured in days, not hours,” she told The Friendly Bay Islander.

Petrae says the Centrelink Agency hosted by BICS at the MI Community Hall, where there is a Centrelink computer, is not enough.

“We have particular problems on this island and particularly with our early learning services here on the islands.

“Months ago I offered to train BICS volunteers in the new CCS system so they could help parents, but BICS declined.

“They preferred to get this training directly from Centrelink but was then advised that BICS had since decided not to get any training as they claimed they were ‘not impacted’.

Petrae says the situation is ‘dire’.

“You can image where that has left our families and my staff.

“We are continually fielding distressed and irate island parents and/or calling parents to contact Centrelink to get errors in their eligibility corrected, and it is just not working.

“I sought Federal Member for Bowman, Andrew Laming’s assistance to get a Centrelink officer with some knowledge and a computer to the islands one day per week thereafter until the new system is sorted – but have not had a response.”

We sought an explanation from Andrew Laming and he replied: “I have not received any complaints or concerns from a single parent about childcare payments or access to Centrelink services on the Bay Islands.

“That is probably because there are regular and ongoing Centrelink agent visits to Macleay Island 9am-3pm Monday to Friday (South Sea Tce and Central Highland Road). Centrelink services are provided by phone and documents can be uploaded.

“The kiosk was audited as working satisfactorily last Thursday. If it isn’t working, it is important that parents notify us.

“There are also complete Centrelink services on the mainland whenever parents need. If parents aren’t receiving responses or payment adjustments within 48 hours, it is important they contact me directly,” Andrew Laming said.

• Petrae McLean