Acknowledgement of country
May I start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we work in the state office of Community Legal Centres NSW: The Gadigal People of the Eora Nation. We also acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands on which community legal centres work throughout NSW and thank them for their custodianship of country.
2008/2009 was a year of challenge and change for NSW community legal centres, and a year of growth for Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW). Once again the sector was recognised in a number of one-off funding grants from the Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
In April 2008, additional funding of $2.2 million was made available to community legal centres for the 2008/09 year. In May and June of 2009 additional one-off funding of $2.6 million for community legal centres in NSW was made available for the year ahead.
In May the Attorney-General said:
“Legal assistance services are critical to effective early intervention by helping people resolve problems before they escalate and lead to entrenched disadvantage... Community Legal Centre funding will help disadvantaged Australians who require legal assistance in areas such as consumer protection, mortgage and tenancy issues, welfare rights, family and homelessness issues.”
Further funds were released in June.
The additional one-off funding is provided for:
- $3.6 million for the development of pilot programs to build better partnerships and greater collaboration between all Family Relationship Centres and nearby Community Legal Centres;
- $1.5 million for Community Legal Centres; and
- $916,000 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal
- Services (ATSILS).
The Attorney-General said: “These additional resources will help address pressing legal assistance needs, including those of Indigenous Australians and families experiencing separation.”
Collaboration between Family Relationships Centres and Community Legal Centres is intended to provide families with early and targeted legal information and advice.
The community legal centre funding of $1.5 million is intended for:
- assisting disadvantaged older Australians;
- family law matters and early intervention and prevention of family violence; and
- developing clinical legal education projects focused on family law.
While welcoming these one-off enhancements, CLCNSW has also continued to seek a stable long-term funding plan for CLCs that will better enable us to meet the needs of our clients and our communities.
Strategic Service Delivery
In 2008/09 CLCNSW continued to advocate for the implementation of the recommendations of the 2006 Review of the NSW Community Legal Centres Funding Program. Some progress has been made on the development of the strategic service delivery model and the measurement of service outcomes. A joint Commonwealth–State commitment to a new funding model is yet to be finalised.
In September 2008 the CLCNSW State office together with Women’s Legal Services NSW and Western NSW CLC commenced the Legal Needs Research and Strategic Planning Project. This project is making great progress towards the development of a strategic planning tool that can be used by all CLCs. The National Association of Community Legal Centres has also expressed interest in the outcomes of the project.
Public Purpose Fund support
The NSW Public Purpose Fund continued to support CLCs and the State office in 2008/09 by funding the Learning and Development Program and the Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP). Both these initiatives strengthen the capacity of CLCs to provide better-informed and more accessible services.
The twelve-month extension of funding for the ALAP enabled us to undertake an evaluation, which we believe shows that the program is capable of producing demonstrable results. Unfortunately its future remains unclear. We look forward to developing a long-term commitment from the PPF to support this important work.
Name, Logo, Plans and Prizes, Rules and Objects
We decided to refresh our name and look – we are no longer “Combined Community Legal Centres’ Group (NSW)” but now “Community Legal Centres NSW” with a new-look letterhead to match. In keeping with our new style we also changed our annual Law and Justice Award to better articulate and promote the innovate projects undertaken by CLCs to enhance access to justice.
We also made substantial progress on the development of a new strategic plan for 2009-12.
This year we also made some minor and procedural amendments to the constitution of CLCNSW to allow for quarterly face-to–face Board meetings and to bring our membership criteria in line with NACLC’s proposed Common Membership rules. This will assist our efforts to obtain national recognition of the CLC ‘brand’ and assurance that it properly represents the quality of the work we do.
State Office Staff
Thanks to the team at the State Office for their enthusiasm and commitment throughout the year. We had quite a lot of comings and goings among the staff this year.
We farewelled Polly Porteous, State Office Director, who left in October 2008 after many years of service to pursue her dream of growing new little activists. We welcomed Alastair McEwin
to replace her. Alastair has a strong background in CLCs and steps ably into Polly’s role.
Roxana Zulfacar had been our locum Advocacy and Human Rights Officer from July 2008 until May 2009, replacing Alison Aggarwal who was on leave while working in the Australian Human Rights Commission. When Alison decided to make that move permanent, Roxana was appointed to the substantive role. Thank you to both Alison and Roxana for your policy and advocacy work. And welcome to Pauline Matthews who was appointed Administrator in September 2008.
And of course our great appreciation for Joanna Mantziaris, Jean Parker, Renee Williamson, Norico Allen and Ellen Davis who kept the Learning and Development Program, Information and Communication Strategy, Aboriginal Legal Access Program and office administration going.
Funding and support
On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank the following individuals and organisations for their support of the State office during 2008/09:
- The Hon. John Hatzistergos, NSW Attorney-General, for his continuing interest in and support of CLCs;
- The Hon. Robert McClelland, Federal Attorney-General, for his support for the CLC program;
- Mr Alan Kirkland, CEO of Legal Aid NSW, for his support of CLCNSW and his willingness to collaborate with CLCs;
- Mr Dennis Roach, CLC Funding Program Manager, Legal Aid NSW, for his continued support of the State office and the community legal service program;
- Mr Richard Funston and Ms Louise Blazejowska from Legal Aid NSW;
- The Trustees and Administrator of the Public Purpose Fund;
- Mr Geoff Mulherin and Ms Sue Scott from the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW; and
- Ms Julia Hall, Director of National Association of CLCs.
Thanks to my fellow Board members for their expertise and commitment to the State Office over the past 12 months. Finally, I would like to thank the management committees, staff and volunteers of community legal centres in NSW. You are what makes our commitment to “Community, Compassion, Justice” a reality.