As part of the funding agreement for the provision of Energy Advocacy Services to support disadvantaged and vulnerable energy consumers, the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME) asked QCOSS to:
• Build the capacity of Queensland’s community organisations to provide energy assistance to low-income and vulnerable people, including working with relevant stakeholders to develop tailored resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
• Provide policy and program advice to government and industry stakeholders to represent the needs of the community sector and low-income and vulnerable energy consumers and investigate energy issues in on-grid Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities such as Yarrabah, Woorabinda and Cherbourg.
This report is based on our research and community engagement activities in Woorabinda.
Recommendation 1: That any engagement by Queensland Government, community organisations or business must be on the terms set by the community including mandatory participation in local cultural capability training (similar to Blackcard10 training but specific to Woorabinda) for all representatives that want to engage or do business in Woorabinda.
Recommendation 2: That Ergon redefine their relationship with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers by providing new service standards and protections that are specifically designed and culturally appropriate for Woorabinda.
Recommendation 3: That Energy Queensland continue to strengthen their commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers in their Indigenous Connection Plan through the employment, education, assistance and capacity-building of Woorabinda people.
Recommendation 4: That the Queensland Government works with Energy Queensland and the Woorabinda community to undertake an energy efficiency audit for each home in Woorabinda and, at a minimum, provide every household in Woorabinda that needs it with efficiency upgrades such as insulation and a PeakSmart air-conditioner and instruction on how to use them efficiently.
Recommendation 5: That QCOSS work with Woorabinda to develop new materials and energy literacy tools based on a storytelling approach that the community will “own”. QCOSS will work with Woorabinda based organisations (identified by the community) to build their capacity to deliver energy literacy in their community on an ongoing basis.
Recommendation 6: That funding be provided to a community organisation in Woorabinda to provide targeted support to assist vulnerable consumers to improve energy literacy by either: Queensland Government expediting and prioritising the implementation of the ACCC’s recommendation 38 in Woorabinda and other disadvantaged communities in Queensland based on the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage; or, Energy Queensland committing funding to achieve this outcome independent of government.
Recommendation 7: That research be undertaken by the Queensland Government into broader cost of living issues for Woorabinda households and opportunities for reinvestment, to inform the development of appropriate policies and programs that will deliver energy affordability.
Recommendation 8: That Queensland Government and Ergon commit to specific energy outcomes and report on progress against those commitments to the community. Community based qualitative research should be undertaken by community peers and supported by Ergon providing quantitative data for Woorabinda.
Recommendation 9: That QCOSS and the Queensland Government continue engagement with Woorabinda and other Indigenous communities to inform policy development in relation to energy, and that this should include an impact assessment of any future policy changes.