Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are independent, not-for-profit community organisations providing equitable and accessible legal services. They support those in our community who are disadvantaged socially, economically or culturally, and often provide their only access to legal services. In doing do CLCs correct societal imbalance and give support and a voice to those who otherwise would not have it.
The Productivity Commission’s report on Access to Justice Arrangements found that legal assistance services are already underfunded. The Commonwealth Government’s proposed funding cuts of 30% in the year ahead will make the situation worse.
In a nation that prides itself on giving people a ‘fair go’ and in a legal system that’s built on delivering justice to all, CLCs are an integral part of the Australian legal environment and the delivery of justice.
This applies to an individual level, where CLCs provide generalist and specialist legal services to clients, and services tailored to particular groups in our society. CLCs also operate at a community level, identifying areas of greatest unmet legal need and deliver community development, legal education and build capacity to strengthen and empower communities.
CLCs play a legal ‘match maker’ role, facilitating the provision of pro bono assistance by private law firms. And this relationship works both ways –they provide supervision and training in areas of law in which the firm may not have the expertise, and then facilitate access by disadvantaged clients to private law firms and the high quality resources available. Put simply, pro bono programs at commercial firms cannot function without CLCs.
At Hall & Wilcox, our purpose is to enable our clients, our people and our communities to thrive, by practising Smarter Law. We’re passionate about CLCs because they help our people and our communities to thrive.
As we’re now into 2017, we would welcome a decision where funding cuts are reversed and increases in funding are made to CLCs in accordance with recommendations made in the Productivity Commission’s report.