In the past year we have seen a wide range of challenges and opportunities for community legal centres (CLCs) around NSW. Both the Australian and NSW Governments have taken great interest in the work of CLCs. One of our key activities is raising our profile in the wider community through the launch of a national CLC campaign about the work we do. We have also completed a planning process to produce a new strategic plan that will inform our work for the next three years. These and many other activities have resulted in yet another busy year for CLCs and the State Office.
Review of CLCs and other public legal assistance providers
In August 2011, the NSW Attorney General, the Hon. Greg Smith SC MP, announced a review of the delivery of legal assistance services to the NSW community. This review was to consider whether there is evidence of unmet legal needs in the community, particularly in rural and regional areas and for vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, and whether current legal assistance services adequately meet these needs. CLCNSW was invited to be a member of the consultative committee which was established to facilitate stakeholder input for the review. CLCNSW, along with a number of CLCs, provided written submissions to the review. A report was expected to be provided to the Attorney General in mid 2012; at the time of this report, we understand that a report has been written, however we have not been advised of any further developments in this regard.
At the federal level, the Australian Government commenced a review of the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Legal Assistance Services. The NPA provides Commonwealth funding to public legal services, including community legal centres, legal aid commissions, Family Violence legal prevention services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. The review is considering legal assistance as a national system as well as the progress made by legal service providers towards achieving the speci c performance indicators set out in the NPA. CLCNSW provided a response to the draft Evaluation Framework developed by the consultants undertaking the review. CLCs are represented on the Advisory Committee by NACLC. We look forward to seeing the nal report in mid-2013.
National campaign to raise awareness of CLCs
Community Law Australia is the name of the national campaign launched by NACLC and State/Territory CLC Associations. This campaign seeks to improve access to legal help in Australia, by calling for a major increase in CLC funding to extend the impact and reach of CLCs to help our clients and communities. CLCNSW is part of the steering committee that is overseeing the campaign.
New strategic plan
CLCNSW’s new strategic plan for 2012–2015 commenced in July 2012. We undertook an extensive process of consultation to develop this plan, with the assistance of an external consultancy. CLC members were invited to provide input through both a session at the February quarterlies and an online survey. Board and staff also met several times to develop the plan. External stakeholders were also asked for their views on CLCNSW and its strategic directions. We believe the new plan reflects what our members and stakeholders want to see CLCNSW undertake for the next three years. We thank everyone for their contributions to this process and look forward to working with our member CLCs as we strive for a vision of access to justice for all in a fair and inclusive community.
Movements at Legal Aid NSW
In September 2011, Alan Kirkland resigned as Chief Executive Of cer of Legal Aid NSW. CLCNSW acknowledges Alan’s contributions to the legal assistance sector, noting in particular his commitment to CLCs in NSW. A signi cant achievement for the CLC sector during Alan’s time included the establishment of the Legal Aid/CLC partnerships program, which has since seen the creation of a number of successful projects.
In turn, CLCNSW welcomed the appointment of Bill Grant OAM as the CEO of Legal Aid NSW in December 2011. Bill was previously CEO of Legal Aid NSW from 2001 to 2007. We acknowledge his contributions to CLCs and look forward to continuing to work with him on issues concerning public legal services.
It has been yet another busy year for the state office. Detailed reports and highlights for the State Office and its committees and networks are found elsewhere in this report.
In December, the State Of ce re-located from its premises in Jones Street, ultimo, to a larger of ce space in Foveaux Street, Surry Hills. The relocation was necessary because of the increase in staff and the need to provide more functional work and meeting areas for all staff, as well as being easily accessible via public transport to our members and other stakeholders.
I thank staff for their efforts supporting, coordinating and leading the sector through their work for CLCNSW. I particularly thank the Director, Alastair McEwin, for his leadership of the organisation.
In looking ahead to 2012–13, it promises to be another busy and challenging year. We will continue to monitor and respond to the interest that the Australian and NSW Governments have in CLC activities, with particular regard to funding for CLCs. We also look forward to reporting to our members and stakeholders our activities under the new strategic plan. And lastly, but certainly not least,we will continue to work at raising the profile of CLCs through the Community Law Australia campaign.
Funding and support
On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank the following individuals and organisations for their support during the year:
The Hon. Greg Smith SC MP, NSW Attorney General, for his interest in and support of CLCs;
The Hon. Robert McClelland MP, former Federal Attorney–General, for his support of the CLC program;
The Hon. Nicola Roxon MP, Federal Attorney–General, for her support of the CLC program;
Mr Laurie Glan eld, Director–General, Department of Attorney General and Justice, for his support of the CLC program;
Bill Grant, CEO of Legal Aid NSW, for his support of CLCs;
Alan Kirkland, former CEO of Legal Aid NSW, for his support of CLCs;
Bronwyn McCutcheon, CLC Funding Program Manager, Legal Aid NSW, and her team of Jane Cipants, Ben Dougall, Kirsty Harrison and Timika Williams, for their support of the State office and the community legal services program;
Michelle Jones, Program Manager, Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Scheme;
The Trustees and Administrator of the NSW Public Purpose Fund;
Geoff Mulherin, Jane Kenny and Judith Levitan from the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW; and
Michael Smith, Convenor, and Julia Hall, Executive Director, of the National Association of CLCs.
My thanks also to my fellow Board members for their expertise and commitment to CLCNSW over the past 12 months. I would like to particularly thank and acknowledge the work of the convenors and co-convenors of the networks. Without your commitment and dedication, the sector would not be as informed and united as it is on the various issues that we work on.
Finally, I would like to thank the management committees, staff and volunteers of community legal centres in NSW.