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.
Movements in the sector
This has been a year of mixed fortunes for community legal centres in NSW. the mid-north coast region attracted funding to establish a new community legal centre, the first such expansion in over 10 years. We congratulate the dedication of the community groups who conducted a needs analysis and advocated successfully for a grant. However we are disappointed to note that the amount involved does not in our view reach the minimum required for a properly viable community legal centre, and indeed, that many of our long established member centres are funded at a lesser level.
While all sources of support for CLCs are welcome, it is now some time since the Commonwealth and state reviews were completed and no sign yet of a transparent and equitable funding formula being put into place.
Without a comprehensive approach we are vulnerable to the unexpected. one such development was the funding that has been made available to provide legal services to assist separating families in mediation through family relationships centres. CLCs are keen to undertake this work but the amount of funding available does not enable us to meet the needs of the clients and the expectations of the service. Although we are pleased that the scheme has now been put onto a three- year basis we are disappointed that this occurred before the evaluation of the pilot had been completed and without any allowance for growth to keep up with demand.
Aboriginal Legal Access Program
This ambitious attempt to improve the accessibility and appropriateness of CLCs for Aboriginal people has had a time of struggle. After intense effort on evaluation, where demonstrated achievement was difficult so early in the life of the program, we then had a long period of uncertainty about its funding resources, made available through the public purpose Fund. As a result of this the state office was forced to reduce staff, and staff in many centre-based projects also moved on because of the lack of job security. We were sad to lose Renee Williamson, our Aboriginal Legal Access program Co-ordinator, and also Jean parker, our Information and Resources officer. Fortunately there will be new funds available in the year ahead, administered through Legal Aid but including a community development component which will enable the state of office to continue its role supporting CLCs to improve accessibility for Aboriginal clients and communities. In the interim Hawkesbury-Nepean CLC has generously assisted with hosting some state-wide activities.
Several centres have taken innovative and sustainable initiatives despite the uncertainties of this program to better integrate Aboriginal access into their core activities. We will build on these successes to continue to improve our services for Aboriginal communities.
Strategic Service Delivery
We have continued our work developing a tool to assist in planning for strategic service delivery with the Legal Needs research and strategic planning project completing its trial phase.
It is becoming a highly regarded and robust analysis tool, and has been promoted at both national and international conferences. It is attracting a great deal of interest.
Some highlights of the year
Once again the state conference was a great success, with high levels of participation by CLC staff. Justice Virginia Bell was inspiring as our keynote speaker. thanks to Chloe Wyatt, state office staff and the organising committee for a job well done.
The Legal education and Advice in prison (LeAp) for Women project, a collaboration of three CLCs, Women’s, Hawkesbury- Nepean and Wirringa Baiya to provide legal services to women in prison, was the worthy recipient of the Law and Justice Foundation Award this year. Women in prison are among the most disadvantaged of our clients and these CLCs are stretching very scarce resources to provide this service. Highly commended was the Domestic/Family Violence project run by the Immigration Advice & Rights Centre.
CLCNSW played a leading role in consultation and advocacy for a Human Rights Charter, enabling many Australians to have a say about protecting our rights. It also enabled us to spread community awareness of the united Nations Declaration and its applicability to our society.
State Office news
This year we completed and registered an enterprise Agreement underpinning our above-award terms and conditions. thanks to Janet Loughman and Anna Cody of the Staffing sub-committee for many additional hours of very detailed work to get this completed.
We farewelled pauline Matthews and welcomed Julian Laurens as Administrator. ellen Davis still does some casual work for us while completing her legal quali cations.
My very great thanks to all the staff, Alastair Mcewin, Joanna Mantziaris, Roxana Zulfacar, Norico Allen and Julian Laurens for their commitment and dedication to making our association productive and harmonious.
Funding and support
On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank the following individuals and organisations for their support during 2009/10:
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;
Alan Kirkland, Ceo of Legal Aid NSW, for his support of CLCNSW and his willingness to collaborate with CLCs;
Dennis Roach, CLC Funding program Manager, Legal Aid NSW, for his support of the State of ce and the community legal service program. Dennis retired this year and we are pleased to welcome Bronwyn McCutcheon in his place.
Michelle Jones, program Manager, Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Scheme
the Trustees and Administrator of the public purpose Fund;
Geoff Mulherin and Sue Scott from the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW; and
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. this is my final year as Chair of CLCNSW, and I will be stepping down from the Board as well. I am proud of what we have together achieved during my tenure, and wish you all the best for a ourishing future.
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.