What are CLCs?
Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are independent community organisations providing equitable and accessible legal services. NSW CLCs work for the public interest, particularly for disadvantaged and marginalised people and communities. CLCs not only provide legal advice and assistance, but also encourage and enable people to develop skills to be their own advocates. We promote human rights, social justice and a better environment by advocating for access to justice and equitable laws and legal systems. Centres work towards achieving systemic change through community legal education, and through law and policy reform.
Members Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are a diverse range of organisations that have two common features:
- They are independent community organisations that provide free legal advice and related services to people and communities facing economic, social or cultural disadvantage; and,
- Are accredited by the national peak body, National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) as Community Legal Centres
CLCs are able to offer effective and creative solutions to legal problems based on their experience within their community. It is the community relationships that make CLCs vital organisations able to respond to the evolving needs of their community and it is this relationship with their community that distinguishes CLCs from other legal services.
While providing legal services to individuals CLCs also work beyond the individual. CLCs undertake community development, community legal education and law reform projects that are based on client need, that are preventative in outcome and that strengthen the community they serve.
CLCs are located throughout Australia in urban, regional and remote locations.
CLCs harness the energy and expertise of thousands of volunteer solicitors, barristers, law students and others, working with staff to provide legal services. CLCs are committed to collaboration with government, Legal Aid, the private legal profession and community partners to ensure the best outcomes for their clients and the system of justice in Australia.
Beyond that, CLCs vary enormously in the range of services they offer, their structure and staffing, the focus of their work and geographic reach.
There are around 200 CLCs nationally. About 20 Centres receive no or very little funding and are staffed entirely by volunteers. All other Centres receive funds from a variety of sources including state and federal governments and philanthropic organisations.
CLCs offer a range of legal and related services to their client community. Possible services include but are not limited to:
- Information and referral
- Advice on legal matters
- Legal casework and representation in targeted areas of law
- Community legal education
- Law reform and public policy development and advocacy
These services are usually offered for free, although some CLCs provide fee-based training to cover costs, etc. and are designed to ensure accessibility (eg legal advice may be provided by phone; interviews and advice sessions may be provided after hours or via outreach).
There are 39 CLCs throughout NSW employing qualified staff including solicitors, social workers and community legal educators. We also have volunteer solicitors, barristers, law students and others working with us to extend our legal services. There are both generalist and specialist centres.
Some Centres provide legal advice over the phone and hold interview and advice sessions after business hours. For information on services offered by individual Centres please contact the centre in your area directly. A list of CLCs in your area is available by clicking here. Or you can download the 2015 CLC Brochure here.
Specialist CLCs concentrate on a particular area of law or target a specific group, offering advice, assistance and legal education to individuals and organizations. In NSW this includes areas such as credit and debt, environmental law, welfare rights, mental health, disability discrimination, tenancy, immigration, employment, the arts, refugees, women, older persons, etc.
In NSW generalist CLCs are located across the state. They offer legal advice and assistance to people living in their catchment area. Generalist centres provide confidential legal advice and assistance on a range of issues including:
- Accidents and compensation
- Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs)
- Banking and finance
- Children and young people
- Consumer rights
- Family law and relationships
- Property and development
- Human rights
- Immigration and citizenship
- Social services, welfare and Centrelink
- Wills and estates
Some generalist centres also offer specialist advice in areas such as tenancy, child support, welfare rights, etc or target their services to a specific community eg Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, children and young people, women, older people, refugees, prisoners, the homeless, and other groups. The decision to provide such services may be due to targeted funding or a decision by the Management Committee to respond to a specific demographic within their local community.