It is with great pleasure that I introduce the 2002 Annual Report of the Combined Community Legal Centres’ Group (NSW). The report documents an energetic year of activity – the collaborative efforts of many people engaged in sector wide issues of interest to ourselves as legal centres, and the communities and clients we represent.
As Chairperson it’s a privilege to be asked to participate in a variety of activities on behalf of the Group – some of them more enjoyable than others, of course! One fine task was presenting the Law Society Pro Bono CLC Volunteer Award to Barbara Garrick, a volunteer solicitor with Hunter Community Legal Centre. Congratulations also goes to Jennifer Neilsen of the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre who won the Law and Justice Foundation’s “Volunteer of the Year Award”. Their work with Community Legal Centres is an example of the dedication to community legal centres that was revealed in the volunteer research that we finalised during the year.
The research report, Our Time is Not a Gift to Government, documents quite clearly that volunteers volunteered in CLCs because the centres were local to where they lived or worked and they had a strong sense of community, sometimes expressed as putting something back into their communities. Most noticeably though, volunteers expressed a strong commitment to social justice issues and support for the law reform and policy work that CLCs do.
Governments however, are quick to challenge this core role of CLCs. As a sector heading into a review of the funding program (although the long awaited review is still just that) it’s been essential that we rally for our long held core values – in essence that we combine casework, community legal education and law reform work - all as essential and inter-related parts of the whole way of being a CLC. The origins of community legal centres can be found in the need for constructive and positive change – maintaining a commitment to this is arguably a key to survival.
A sincere thank-you to our committed and talented staff Brigid Inder, Elaine Fishwick, Julie Smith and Carol Roberts; Board members, committee convenors and other CLC workers who make a contribution to our combined work and who have positioned us well to move with confidence into 2003.