Advocacy

Our national advocacy, policy and law reform work is critical to our core function as a national representative voice for the community legal sector. Our movement has a vision for justice which will only be realised through progressive law reform, and through adequate resourcing for our sector so that the people and communities we work with can access the legal supports they need.

This work involves: 

  • Giving voice to the people and communities our centres work with so that their experiences of the justice system can drive system reform. 
  • Coordinating sector views so that we can, wherever possible, speak with one voice, particularly when advocating to the federal government and other national-level justice stakeholders. 
  • Amplifying the advocacy, policy and law reform work of both the state and territory peaks and individual centres and, where we can, supporting them with strategic advice and resources. 
  • Building understanding of and support for our sector among federal parliamentarians and other national-level decision-makers.

Read below about some of the important federal law reform issues our sector advocates on.

2024–25 Pre-budget submission

Funding for legal assistance is an investment in people and communities: our services keep people in jobs and homes, and out of debt, hospitals, courts, and prisons. And yet, the legal assistance sector in Australia is woefully underfunded, which hurts people and communities, and costs governments.

Community-based legal assistance providers face unique greater funding risks, including inflationary pressures, underfunding and a lack of long-term funding security. Our unique service model and contribution to individual and community wellbeing are at risk.

We recommend the Commonwealth Government invests significant additional funding for legal assistance services in the May 2024-25 Federal Budget. We need urgent additional funding in 2024-25 and over the forward estimates, to enable legal assistance providers to keep delivering vital support to the community

Trans justice and community legal centres

Monday 20 November marked the international Trans Day of Remembrance. And on Saturday 25 November rallies will be held in capital cities across Australia to mark Trans Day of Resistance.

Transphobia is on the rise around the world and our sector has a crucial role to play in supporting justice for trans people. Trans and gender-diverse people need legal help – both with everyday legal matters, and with matters linked to their gender identity.

Several specialist community legal centres and services offer safe, inclusive legal assistance for LGBTIQ+ communities. However, all community legal centres should be equipped and resourced to provide support.

Media release: Community legal centres commit to supporting ongoing First Nations-led protest movements for justice and safety

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community legal centre workers speak out on Australian racism in the wake of Voice referendum

The Australian community legal sector has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting First Nations justice movements, including work towards Treaty and Truth, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community legal sector workers speak out on Australian racism in the wake of the referendum.

October 2023: Our response to the Voice referendum

Community Legal Centres Australia stands in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, within and outside the community legal sector movement, now and going forward.

October 2023: Reflections on the Voice – A letter to the community legal sector

In this powerful, and deeply personal letter to the community legal sector, Bobbi Murray, First Nations Justice Advisor to Community Legal Centres Australia and convenor of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Network reflects on the impacts of the referendum campaign and result and where to next for First Nations peoples’ struggle for justice.

October 2023: Protecting the right to protest

The community legal centres movement was born out of protest, activism and community action, and we recognise the crucial role protest movements play in winning justice for people, communities and the environment to this day. Recent moves to criminalise peaceful protest across this continent have far-reaching and damaging implications for our democracy and particularly for the people and communities in our society that already face the greatest structural barriers to justice.

Read on for more information about disturbing developments in the past fortnight, and what community legal centres can do to support the right to protest. 

October 2023: Governments must do more to protect communities from worsening climate disasters

Our thoughts go out to the people across NSW, Victoria, and Tasmania, whose communities are being ravaged by fires and floods. We hope the immediate threats to life and homes subside quickly so that the process of recovery can begin. 

Climate change and the worsening disasters it drives are justice issues, and disasters compound structural barriers. Governments must act now to limit climate impacts and support community-based resilience building and recovery efforts: governments must fund community legal centres to carry out crucial disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness and community resilience work, and include funding for disaster response and recovery in baseline community legal centre funding.

September 2023: Our position on the Voice referendum

Community Legal Centres Australia supports the Voice to Parliament and the Yes23 referendum campaign.

September 2023: Submission to the Inquiry into Australia’s Human Rights Framework

Community Legal Centres Australia, in conjunction with the Community Legal Centres National Human Rights Network, recently made a submission to the Inquiry into Australia’s Human Rights Framework

Our submission highlights the need to establish a national human rights framework that has a legislative basis and includes the protection of civil and political rights, economic and social rights, and the right to a healthy environment. It also emphasises the need for a positive enabling framework to guide government decision-making, in line with values of fairness, safety, and dignity.

August 2023: Submission to the Independent Review of Commonwealth Disaster Funding

Community Legal Centres Australia made a submission to the National Emergency Management Agency’s Independent Review of Commonwealth Disaster Funding. The submission particularly highlights that:

  • Community legal centres need sufficient, sustainable and flexible funding to prepare for and respond to disasters.
  • Funding community legal centre resilience-building programs is an investment in protecting communities from disasters.

July 2023: Robodebt Royal Commission

by Amy Schneider, Environmental Justice Australia

On Friday 7 July 2023, the Royal Commission handed down its final report into the Robodebt Scheme. The report is extensive, with comprehensive analysis of the scheme spanning over 900 pages and 3 volumes) and makes 57 recommendations. It describes the scheme as a “crude and cruel mechanism,” that from its inception was known to be inconsistent with social security law. In examining the operation of the scheme, the report unravels systemic injustice and identifies areas of social security law, and administration, that require urgent reform.

June 2023: Family law reform

by Lara Freidin, Women’s Legal Services Australia

The Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus has stated the government’s commitment to ensuring the family law system is ‘safer, more accessible, simpler to use, and delivers justice and fairness for all Australian families’ many times since taking office in May 2022. On 29 March, the government introduced the Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 and the Family Law (Information Sharing) Bill 2023. Both bills were referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry on 11 May.

May 2023: Federal Budget response

The 2023-24 budget demonstrates the government’s clear intention to target expenditure towards supporting people experiencing financial hardship to meet cost-of-living pressures. We welcome this focus. However, the budget contains very little new funding to improve access to justice, or to support struggling legal assistance services to meet overwhelming demand for legal help. People experiencing poverty and intersectional disadvantage are more likely to have multiple legal problems, to have fewer resources to resolve them, and to become enmeshed in the criminal legal system. As such, it is particularly disappointing that legal assistance services have been largely overlooked in a budget that focuses its attention squarely on doing more for people doing it tough.

April 2023: Submission on the extent and nature of poverty in Australia

Community Legal Centres Australia welcomed the opportunity to make a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs’ inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty in Australia. Poverty is widely recognised as a key driver of legal need and of harmful contact with our criminal legal systems. As a result, we were disheartened to find that the inquiry’s terms of reference do not explicitly address the role our legal systems play in perpetuating the prevalence and punishing the experience of poverty in the community.

February 2023: Submission on Australia’s illicit drug problem

Community legal centres across the country work daily with people experiencing disadvantage, discrimination and trauma who are negatively impacted by the criminalisation of the personal use and possession of illicit drugs. We see first-hand the harms associated with treating drug use as a criminal legal issue rather than a health issue.

The submission addresses particularly:

  • the involvement and effectiveness of law enforcement in harm reduction strategies
  • the strengths and weaknesses of decriminalisation