Community Legal Centres
Community legal centres are independent, non-profit, community-based organisations that provide free and accessible legal and related services to everyday people, including people experiencing discrimination and disadvantage.
Community legal centres provide a range of services including information, referral, legal advice, non-legal support, duty lawyer services, and casework including representation services. Centres also utilise a range of early intervention and preventative strategies such as community legal education and community development, individual skill building, systemic advocacy and law and policy reform activities. More broadly, community legal centres play a key role in community engagement, developing and facilitating partnerships between legal assistance providers and legal and non-legal services (for example, domestic violence organisations, community health organisations, housing services and drug and alcohol services) and developing and maintaining referral networks and protocols.
There are 181 CLCs nationally and in 2017-2018 centres provided over 470,000 services to people across Australia.
- Community legal centres are independent, community-based organisations that are imbedded in and responsive to community
- Community legal centres provide holistic, client-centred, wrap-around, safe and appropriate services
- Community legal centres deliver efficient, effective and innovative services
- Community legal centres often comprise multidisciplinary teams and service delivery models
- Community legal centres provide high quality services and are supported by a strong national quality service framework focused on continuous improvement
- Community legal centres use frontline service delivery to inform broader systemic work, including law reform, policy and strategic advocacy
The sector includes a wide range of community legal centres which differ significantly in size and operation, but which together form a vital fabric of services which play a role in ensure clients and communities can access the types of help that they need. Centres include:
- generalist CLCs that provide legal assistance to people in a particular geographic region (catchment area) in relation to a wide range of areas of law, including family law and family violence, credit and debt, consumer law, social security, migration, tenancy, discrimination, employment and child protection
- generalist CLCs that also have specialist programs that reach a wider catchment area and/or target a particular client group or area of law
- specialist CLCs which provide services to a particular target group, for example women, refugees and asylum seekers, older people, children and young people, people with disability, LGBTIQ people and people experiencing homelessness
- specialist CLCs which provide services in a particular specialist area of law, for example consumer and credit, social security, employment, tenancy and environmental and planning law
- a number of national centres (and centres with national services) and several that provide crossborder services, or have offices in multiple jurisdictions, and
- stand-alone centres and a number that are auspiced as part of larger organisations.