Work of Community Legal Centres NSW to promote First Nations justice
Community Legal Centres NSW takes a whole-of-organisation approach to promoting access to justice for Aboriginal people.
Our Aboriginal Legal Access Program aims to increase access to justice via a range of activities such as supporting community legal centres to develop culturally safe practices, supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community legal centre staff, supporting social change with our partner organisations in the legal assistance sector, and contributing to law reform activities.
Our Advocacy and Communications team positions Aboriginal justice issues central to its work, and advocates around issues including raising the age of criminal responsibility, ending forced adoptions, police accountability, and ending Aboriginal deaths in custody.
Our Accreditation program supports the sector to meet the Cultural Safety Standard in the National Accreditation Scheme.
Our entire team delivers quarterly sector mini-conferences that always provide training and/or discussion that aims to support the sector to increase access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW.
Our entire team participates in Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training and Aboriginal community days like Yabun and NAIDOC.
Work of the community legal sector to promote First Nations justice
The main purposes of community legal centres are to provide legal services to people in the community who experience significant social and economic disadvantage, to provide community legal education to empower people and communities, and to advance the law so that it is fair and just to everyone.
As a sector, we strive to provide legal services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW. There are 22 community legal centres with a specific Aboriginal program, and there are more than 30 Aboriginal staff members employed across these centres. All of these staff members work to connect the community to legal assistance.
This work is our core business. We recognise our society’s significant gaps in social outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. As such, we know that Aboriginal justice issues are critical to our purpose of supporting a fair, just, and equitable society.
We recognise and acknowledge that Aboriginal community-controlled organisations are best placed to provide services to Aboriginal communities. Whilst we are community organisations and we are not part of government, only 3 out of the 40 community legal centres are Aboriginal controlled organisations. However, there are over 30 Aboriginal staff members across the NSW community legal centre sector. This is because we know that access to justice means more than simply access to sandstone buildings - it’s about connecting through culturally safe relationships to provide professional legal services in local settings.
In 2019 we developed a map of Aboriginal justice initiatives being conducted across NSW community legal centres, and we are committed to reviewing this annually and publishing the results of this review. We want to hold ourselves accountable for our performance in this area.
We recognise that, as a sector, we have a long way to go. But we are committed to enhancing the cultural safety of our work and doing better work to promote access to justice for Aboriginal people.