CLCNSW Annual Report 2016-17


Reports from Chairs Nassim Arrage and Linda Tucker

Nassim Arrage - (Chair until November 2016)

In the first half of the financial year CLCNSW focused on two main areas, both critical to the sustainability and strength of the sector. The first was negotiations with Legal Aid NSW on their proposed methodology for CLC funding cuts. I worked closely with Polly and the CLCNSW Review Advisory Committee to argue for a transparent, evidence-based methodology. This crucial piece of work involved close consultation with all CLCNSW members and robust discussions with staff at Legal Aid NSW.

The second primary focus during this period was changes to the governance of CLCNSW itself. Following almost 12 months of consultation with the membership, a new Constitution was approved at the November 2016 AGM. Details about the governance restructure are set out further in this report, so I won’t go into details here, but I believe this restructure was vital to streamline processes and increase the effectiveness of CLCNSW into the future.

It has been an incredible honour to be Chair of CLCNSW for the past four years. I’d like to thank our partners and supporters, including the teams at the Law and Justice Foundation NSW, the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT, LawAccess NSW, Legal Aid NSW, NSW Law Society, NSW Bar Association, NCOSS and many others. The vital function of the CLC sector can only be achieved through strong relationships with the rest of the legal assistance sector and pro bono partners.

A huge thank you to all the staff and volunteers at community legal centres throughout NSW. I am constantly impressed and inspired by the incredible work the sector achieves with such limited resources. Thanks to the staff of CLCNSW for their commitment and work in challenging times. In particular, I want to thank and acknowledge Polly Porteous, Interim Executive Director, without whom all of the achievements CLCNSW made over the last year would not be possible.

Polly has a brilliant mind that is able to grasp the important issues and also has the drive, collaborative approach and tenacity needed to implement them. The sector has great trust in Polly and it is well deserved. I would like to thank fellow Board members for their support and leadership. Liz Snell, in particular, deserves mention for her unassuming but steady leadership.

I wish the new Board all the best under the leadership of Chairperson Linda Tucker in facing the challenges ahead!

Linda Tucker - (elected November 2016)

I took over from Nassim in November 2017 when he stepped down from both the Board and as Chair of CLCNSW. Nassim was a stellar Chair over four years, driving strategic change from the top. We are incredibly lucky to have him go on to take up the CEO role at the National Association of Community Legal Centres, where he continues to advocate for CLCs and access to justice. Thanks Nassim!

CLCNSW continued its high-pace work in the second half of the financial year. We saw our advocacy and media work and profile rapidly increase with the commencement of our new Advocacy and Communications Coordinator, Mark Riboldi, in January 2017. Our focus was to convince the federal government not to go ahead with CLC funding cuts slated for July 2017.

Mark and the other CLCNSW staff resourced and supported CLCs to engage with the growing attention from the media, MPs and the community about the work of CLCs and the need for more – not less – free legal assistance services in NSW.

In February 2017, Polly and I met with the new NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman. We were heartened by the interest in, and support for, CLCs that Mr Speakman and his staff showed us both at this meeting and subsequent meetings. This support turned into an announcement in early April that the NSW government would meet the funding cuts if they went ahead.

We believe that our Attorney’s public support for CLCs was a critical element in the announcement by the federal government in late April that they were not proceeding with the funding cuts. The NSW government continued to honour their original commitment to provide an additional $3m annually for two years, and NSW became the luckiest state in Australia, slated for an actual across the board increase in state government funding for CLCs for the first time in a decade.

In addition to all the external factors affecting CLCs and driving much of CLCNSW’s work, this year saw CLCNSW take on a brand new fee-for-service enterprise: the CLCNSW Financial Service. This is discussed in detail in the following pages. The Financial Service was supported by a grant by Legal Aid NSW, with the aim of being financially sustainable within 12 months. We are working hard to make this happen.

On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank all the people and organisations that supported CLCNSW and the CLC sector throughout the year. Like Nassim, I would like to give special thanks and acknowledgement for the extraordinary work of Polly Porteous whose strategic intelligence and vim has lit up CLCNSW. Like most years for our sector, this has been a challenging and volatile period.

Community legal centres are remarkably resilient in navigating the twists and turns of delivering access to justice in a tenuous funding environment. The CLCNSW office, with Polly at the helm, has provided CLCs with essential support to do so.