Orientation to the community legal sector in NSW



Have you recently taken up a position in a community legal centre? Are you wanting to find out more about the community legal sector in NSW? This page provides an overview of community legal centres in NSW, key relationships, and useful links to help you develop an understanding of the world of community legal centres in NSW.

Value of community legal centres

Watch this short video (2.3 minutes) where community legal centre practitioners from across Australia share their experience about the value of community.


History of community legal centres

Community legal centres have been in operation for over forty years. They were established in response to local communities recognising there was a gap in assistance for people who are vulnerable, and continue today to offer services in response to local community legal need.

Many community legal centres also include their history on their websites or in their Annual Reports. The following list includes links to some individual legal centre histories.

The work of community legal centres

Community legal centres provide free legal services including referrals, legal advice, casework, advocacy and law reform and Community Legal Education (CLE).

Watch this short video where practitioners talk about the kinds of services provided.


Here are some links to videos about the work of some individual centres.

Download and view summary data about services provided by community legal centres in NSW in 2017/18.

Legal needs in NSW

The Law and Justice Foundation conducted research into the demographics and legal needs of areas in NSW serviced by community legal centres. In 2018 the law and Justice Foundation produced the report - Evidence of Legal Need in NSW to support the implementation of the Cameron Review.

View the report on the Law Foundation website.

Community Legal Centres NSW

Community Legal Centres NSW is the peak for almost 40 community legal centres in NSW. For a list of members, click here.

Community Legal Centres NSW provide a range of services to support community legal centres and their communities.

Acronyms and Abbreviations 

Confused by all the acronyms and abbreviations? View an explanation of commonly used acronyms and abbreviations here.

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) developed a guide to using national data definitions to assist services to collect nationally consistent data. A glossary of definitions can be found on their website which you view here

Funding for community legal centres

Community Legal Centres can receive income from a number of sources, depending on the services provided. Government funding comes from both the Commonwealth and state Attorney General Department’ and is administered in NSW by the NSW Legal Aid Commission. Further information is available on the Funding and Reporting page. Click here 

The National Strategic Framework for Legal Assistance 2015-20 provides the principles to guide legal assistance policy development, service delivery and sector planning. View the Framework here.

The National Partnership Agreement (NPA) provides Australian Government funding to states and territories to distribute to legal aid commissions and community legal centres. Read more about the NPA on the Commonwealth Attorney General's website here.

In NSW the Cameron Review into community legal centres in NSW resulted in recommendations for state government funding including a three year funding cycle. Read the Cameron Review for further information about community legal centres in NSW, recommendations for future resourcing of the sector.

Community Legal Centres Australia (CLCA)

CLCA is the national peak for community legal centres in Australia. All members of state peaks are also members of the national association. CLCA provides important member services including managing the national Community Legal Sector Insurance Scheme, managing the national CLASS data base for collecting service data, managing and implementing the National Accreditation Scheme and convening an annual national conference. For more information, click here.

NSW Legal Assistance Sector

Community legal centres are part of the legal assistance sector in NSW which also includes the Legal Aid Commission and Aboriginal Legal Services.

Legal Aid NSW is a government funded statutory body providing legal services, traditionally in criminal law, but increasingly in civil and family law. Find out more information about Legal Aid NSW, here

The Community Legal Service Program within Legal Aid NSW administers state and commonwealth funding for community legal centres in NSW. For more information about the community legal centre funding go the Legal Aid website.

Aboriginal Legal Services NSW/ACT is the peak body for Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) in NSW and ACT. ALS are community managed , independent organisations funded by government to provide legal services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders. For more information, visit the Aboriginal Legal Services NSW/ACT website.

Video: Aboriginal Field Officers from ALS in conversation.