Change takes community presents the community legal sector’s holistic vision for justice, a comprehensive set of legislative and policy reforms will ensure that our communities are fairer and more-inclusive places, where everyone is housed, safe, and has the support they need to thrive and participate. Download now.
Change takes community draws upon the community legal centre sector’s extensive experience delivering 185,000 frontline legal services to over 54,000 people across New South Wales every year. As services at the coalface, community legal centres are uniquely placed to identify structural and systemic issues and develop meaningful solutions to these barriers to justice.
We have identified reforms that will make our communities fairer, safer, more inclusive, more secure, and put people back in charge of their own lives. This report details these reforms. It is broken into seven chapters, with calls on the New South Wales government to take action for a fairer future.
1. Support communities to be safe and resilient
The best way to build safe and resilient communities is to ensure that everyone has a safe, secure, and healthy place to live. A fairer fines system will help people overcome financial hardship, and increased access to services for people in rural, regional and remote communities will lead to more-just outcomes.
2. Protect victim-survivors and prevent violence and abuse
Everyone deserves to live free from gendered violence, abuse and harassment, in communities where our personal integrity is respected. Our reforms seek to prevent violence in the community and improve safety and support for victim-survivors. We also want to improve access to compensation for victim-survivors of sexual, domestic, and family violence and abuse.
3. Foster equality and respect
Our communities are healthier and stronger when we treat one another with dignity and respect. For this to be a reality, our laws and policies must be guided by the values of inclusion, freedom, equality, and dignity. We can do this by safeguarding human rights and protecting people from discrimination. Supporting people with disability’s safety, wellbeing, and capacity to make decisions affecting their own lives will promote respect for their inherent dignity and allow for effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
4. Empower communities. Disrupt pathways to prison
Supporting people to live safe and healthy lives in the community will disrupt pathways to prison and keep families together. The NSW Government must end Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody. Fairer laws and policies, along with improved police accountability and transparency, will reduce the need for police intervention and reduce the number of people in prison. Improving imprisoned people’s health, wellbeing, and financial security will help people to reintegrate and participate in community life.
5. Keep families together and young people in community
Every child should be free to go to school, have a safe home to live in, and be supported to live with their community and family. We need to keep children and young people in community and out of the criminal legal system. This means supporting parents, families and communities to keep children safe at home, and embedding the principles of self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout the child protection system.
6. Care for the environment
We are in a climate emergency and an extinction crisis. To safeguard against extreme weather events and the catastrophic effects of climate change, we must set strong, credible targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A just transition to a zero-carbon economy is necessary and we need climate-ready planning laws to ensure that people experiencing hardship are not left behind. Conserving biodiversity is a key principle of ecologically sustainable development and enhances our ability to enjoy a healthy environment. We must increase protections for threatened species, and respect and protect animals’ rights and wellbeing.
7. Champion a vibrant democracy
A vibrant democracy protects our freedoms. It means that communities, people and organisations have the right to participate freely and fairly in public policy debates, advocacy, and activism. It requires government openness and accountability.