Federal Budget

What the new Federal Budget means for Community Legal Centres

The Federal Budget 2022-2023

Disappointing budget for the community legal sector that does little to improve access to justice

Community Legal Centres Australia believes that everyone is entitled to justice, regardless of how much money they have.  

The community legal sector is grossly underfunded, and we are disappointed that the budget does not include much needed funding to allow the sector to deliver services to those in need in our communities. 

We know that around 80 people a week are turned away from community legal centres in each electorate. This budget does not contain a commitment or vision to improve access to justice in this country and only delivers temporary fixes, when we need long term solutions to the persistent problems of inequality and injustice. 

Whilst we do welcome the following funding announcements, more clarity is needed around how this funding will be allocated before we can speak definitively about the impacts it may have: 

  • $2.5 million over two years to support the Financial Rights Legal Centre’s National Insurance Law Service 

  • A $25 million package which includes financial counselling services on the ground in flood affected areas NSW and QLD in addition to the $5.4 million previously announced in March 2022 for legal assistance for flood victims in NSW and Queensland – although it is not specified how this funding will be allocated. 

  • $8.4 million over three years for a pilot of a new service delivery model to provide survivors of sexual assault with greater access to dedicated legal services – although it is not specified how this funding will be allocated.  

  • A $10.5 million package over four years that includes funding for supporting financial counsellors – although again it is not clear how this will be allocated 

We are disappointed that the Budget fails to deliver:  

  • An additional $80 million core funding for community legal centres to be able to address unmet need 

  • $1.5 million every four years for a national legal needs assessment to facilitate evidence-based planning and efficient allocation of resources

  • $20 million per year for legal assistance in disaster prevention as well as recovery 

  • $25 million per year funding for wraparound support through an integrated services model

  • The desperately needed additional funding for Aboriginal legal and family violence prevention services; in fact, it delivers a cut in real terms to these frontline services. 

Investing in community legal services not only improves the lives of those requiring legal help but provides significant cost savings to the economy through the positive flow on effects to wider society and ultimately, downstream cost savings for the federal government.  

Community Legal Centres Australia encourages all political parties to set out their vision for addressing unmet legal need across Australia and to set out their plans for how they will support the community legal sector before the federal election in May 2022.  

*Update 10/3/22* 

The Federal Government has announced $5.4 million funding for legal assistance providers in Queensland and NSW to ‘boost existing legal assistance services operating within affected communities’. We have requested further details about how this funding will be distributed and will update this page as we receive this information. 

Federal Budget 2021-2022

The Federal Budget 2021-22 (the Budget) includes the biggest funding boost for legal assistance in over a decade, and perhaps ever. The community legal sector is likely to benefit from many of the Budget measures. This is quite remarkable considering that the community legal sector was facing the funding cliff – a 30% cut to Commonwealth funding – just four years ago.

These Budget measures are in addition to the current levels provided through the National Legal Assistance Partnerships (NLAP)  -the main overarching funding agreement for community legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services and legal aid commissions. 

While giving many Centres the opportunity to address financial viability or sustainability issues, the provisions in this Budget also offer the ability to enhance a range of services to our communities for the next four years. 

Significantly, provisions include increased legal assistance service capacity for: 

  • women and children experiencing family violence  
  • people with mental health conditions 
  • survivors of child sexual assault 
  • young people and children 

The additional funding – the timing

As your national peak, CLCs Australia have been advocating for the Commonwealth to get this money out the door to Centres asap to make up for any loss of COVID-19 funding. However, on current timetables, it does not seem possible that this will happen before 2022. The majority of states and territories have been waiting for this funding for six months.

We are doing what we can to get the Commonwealth to speed up the time frame.

We have made the Attorney-General well aware of this and offered to help in future planning to ease the transition where one funding stream is ending and a new one is being made available. 

The additional funding – the amounts

Most of the new allocations for legal assistance money (anything that is for 4 years) will be put through NLAP. States and Territories will make decisions about local allocations.  

 Distribution from the federal government to the states and territories is complete and the next step is decision making about decision making about allocations within states and territories.

You might find it useful (or more confusing as the money figures don’t always align) to refer to the source material in Budget Paper No 2 (PDF) when reading about the main provisions.  


Please bookmark this page. Understanding how the different allocation will be implemented –both through NLAP and then at the State and Territory level– is an evolving situation. Please keep coming back to this page for the latest information. 


The majority of states and territories have not distributed the funding yet to centres, with only Western Australia doing so as of November 2021. We have collated information of when the funding is likely to be received by centres (where this is known) and what has been the distribution of women’s legal centre funding between providers.

The Budget: key gains and concerns

Our advocacy around funding is paying off

This Budget indicates a shift that we should celebrate as a sector. It is more than the individual funding allocations or the political motivations behind them. It has been our collective advocacy as a sector and the relationship that CLCs Australia has developed with the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) that has brought about this result. Armed with our analysis of CLASS data and a range of other material, AGD have been working hard since the 2020 Budget to convince other Departments of the importance of community legal centres and other legal assistance funding providers.

Since the success of #FundEqualJustice, CLCs Australia has consistently engaged with the Federal Government at both the Ministerial and Departmental levels and advocating for:

  • recognition of the importance of service delivery models that are multidisciplinary, joined up and wrap-around in meeting complex client needs and that Centres have been doing this kind of service delivery for a long time; and
  • recognition of the relationship between legal assistance and other social services and the need for a whole of government approach to legal assistance funding (most of the money that is coming through to community legal centres and the other legal assistance providers is coming from other portfolios); and
  • rolling as much funding as possible into NLAP so that Centres can experience:
    • consistent reporting requirements, and
    • longer-term funding (in this case it is for the next four years of NLAP 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2025).

What’s next?

CLCs Australia is now focused on ensuring that the implementation of this funding results in:

  • the funding being made available as soon as possible
  • Centres being able to take full advantage of what is available
  • as much as possible of the total directed towards the community legal sector; and 
  • conditions of funding that are flexible and allow what make the most sense at the local level,
  • no additional reporting requirements or funding acquittals

Many will be implemented via NLAP, while others will be extensions of existing arrangements, and some will require new arrangements.

Budget shortcomings (for legal assistance)

  • No extension of COVID-19 legal assistance funding which will be frustrating for most of the Centres who have established services result in a service gap

  • ATSIL funding does not meet need and most policy issues #RaisetheAge, #StopDeathsinCustody and mass incarceration unaddressed

  • FVPLS funding does not meet need and no funding for National Forum

  • No funding of determining level of unmet legal need and the funding levels needed

Other concerns

This Budget doesn’t address any of the structural issues that drive inequality or the social and economic issues that drive legal need and demand for legal assistance including the lack of social housing and income inequality CLCs Australia continue to support and work with ACOSS for the Raise the Rate for Good! campaign. 


Beyond the opportunities specified by NLAP, there may be other funding opportunities. 

One possibility is the establishment of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) (Building Australia’s Resilience, Budget Paper No 2, page 65) which may result in legal assistance if Recommendation 22.5 of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements is followed (page 479 of that Report).

Keep an eye on this space as we will be updating frequently.


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