Law reform

Community Legal Centres Australia's engagement on a new Convention on the Rights of Older Persons May 2022

Bill Mitchell (Townsville Community Law) represented Community Legal Centres Australia at the 12th Session of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA). The OEWGA was established by a mandate from the General Assembly over a decade ago to consider the need for and form of a new Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.  

Community Legal Centres Australia has been engaged in OEWGA’s sessions since the 4th session in 2013. This year we participated remotely in a hybrid session of four days in New York between 11-15 April 2022. The working group is nearing the end of its consideration of rights areas for consideration with this year’s session considering substantive issues surrounding older persons’ right to economic security and sustainable development and possible normative content on their right to work and participate in the labour market, and access to justice. Community Legal Centres Australia made written and oral interventions on all issues. The Australian Government continues to oppose a new Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.  

Although OEWGA’s progress has been slow, a significant result of its 12th session (2022) is the announcement of the establishment of an informal cross-regional group of States to move the process forward by seeking to get agreement in 2023 on the establishment of an intersessional working group to focus on the possible content of a new convention. Civil Society including Community Legal Centres Australia have been calling for drafting to start for several years, and this call is growing louder and gaining more supporters across Member States, and Civil Society.  

In Australia a webinar is being presented by EveryAGE Counts on 17 May 2022 ( and a National Strategic Policy Workshop on 24 June 2022 co-sponsored by the Australian Human Rights Institute at the University of New South Wales, EveryAGE Counts (The Benevolent Society) and Community Legal Centres Australia (details tba). 

Importantly, the Human Rights Council in Geneva has also begun to give greater prominence to older persons; human rights and how better to protect them. In late 2021 the Human Rights Council adopted an important resolution on the human rights of older persons, in which it called for the preparation by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of a report on the adequacy of the current international human rights framework in relation to older persons’ human rights. OHCHR submitted that report to the Council in February 2022 and it will be the subject of a multi-stakeholder meeting in Geneva on 14 and 15 July 2022 at which Community Legal Centres Australia should be invited to participate. The report of that meeting will be provided to the Council which will then decide on any further action it considers appropriate.  

Law Council of Australia Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules

Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety

Proposed Family Court merger

We have been working with Women’s Legal Services Australia in trying to change the Attorney-General’s mind about his proposed merger of the Family Court with the Federal Circuit Court. Our combined media release and open letter to the Attorney-General is below.

While the open letter has been sent to the Attorney-General, we are continuing to accept co-signatories to the letter for further advocacy opportunities.  To join us in this work and co-sign the letter, please send your name, position and organisation to Liz Snell at

Negotiations of New National Mechanism 2019 and NPA Review 2018

Read about our advocacy work around the new National Legal Assistance Package here.

Negotiation of New National Mechanism 2019

As negotiations for the next National Mechanism formally commence (likely in early August) it is important that we as a sector have a shared view of what we would like to see included in the next National Mechanism itself as well as any reforms to the systems and structures that support and facilitate its implementation that should be the focus of our advocacy and engagement.

The work we all undertook in reaching shared sector positions developed throughout the Review of the current National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services in 2018 provides an important basis upon which to inform our engagement over the coming months.

Given the National Mechanism will require agreement between the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments, it is important that advocacy and engagement occurs by the community legal sector at a national and State and Territory Level by NACLC and State and Territory Associations

As a result, we have worked with the NACLC Advisory Council and State and Territory Associations to develop a blueprint/key asks document that is intended to provide a high-level blueprint for our advocacy and engagement as the National Mechanism is negotiated. Some of these asks relate to the National Mechanism document itself and others to the processes, systems and structures that support and facilitate its implementation.

The Blueprint/Key Asks document is available below. 

NPA Review 2018

The Final Report of the NPA Review has now been publicly released. The Report and the accompanying media release from the Attorney-General are available.

We worked extremely hard throughout the Review, alongside the State and Territory Associations and you all, to ensure the Report accurately captured the vital work of the sector; provided a positive contribution to evidence base; and contains positive recommendations for reform.

Overall, the Report does these things and the findings, insights and recommendations broadly align with our advocacy. While we may not agree with all the findings or reflections contained in the Report, it is overall a positive Report and will provide a useful basis for ongoing improvements to the funding and administration of the sector.

A brief summary of the key findings and recommendations is available below for your information. Broadly speaking, the Final Report:

  • Recognises the role , value and work of the sector

  • Acknowledges the inconsistent implementation of the NPA across jurisdictions

  • Recognises the pre-existing efficiency of the sector (and that the sector delivers value for money)

  • Recognises the impact of funding uncertainty on the sector, including on sector, staff and workforce and recommends the need for funding certainty and longer-term funding cycles of at least 3 and up to 5 years (Rec 7)

  • Recommends greater transparency around funding

  • Recommends a review of the Funding Allocation Models which determine funding allocations of Commonwealth funding between States and Territories

  • Highlights the need for greater Commonwealth leadership by the Commonwealth Government, including in particular in relation to information sharing, sharing of good practice and data

  • Makes recommendations for improvement to collaborative service planning and significantly a very clear recommendation about government resourcing engagement in collaborative service planning (including peak bodies).

  • Recognises ongoing issues in interpretation, application and reporting under the National Data Standards Manual (in particular support/training/guidance) and need for Commonwealth leadership, in partnership with state and territory governments and sector peaks

  • Makes an important recommendation about prioritisation and funding of further guidance and targeted training for the CLC sector to improve national data consistency, coordinated at the national level (Rec 14)

  • Recognises the time and investment in systems and training around the National Data Standards Manual and roll-out of CLASS and impact on service delivery.

Throughout the Review we, along with others, strongly advocated about the need for explicit recognition and a recommendation about the overall quantum of funding for the sector. Disappointingly, while there are some positive funding-related findings and recommendations, the review took a narrow view of the Terms of Reference and scope and excluded issues of funding quantum which means there isn’t the overarching recommendation about increasing the level of funding to the sector that we had sought. 

However, the Report does state that ‘it was consistently reported by LACs, CLCs and some government stakeholders that funding levels were a significant barrier to achieving the outcomes and objectives set out in the NPA’.

Despite this, funding quantum is an issue we will continue to advocate strongly about and we think there is enough in the report to support our ongoing advocacy around long-term, sustainable and predictable funding for the sector.

ILAP Review 2018

The Final Report of the Indigenous Legal Assistance Programme (ILAP) Review of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) has also been released.

Briefly, we worked closely with National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) to inform the ILAP Review. The Final Report overall is a positive one which:

  • recommends retaining ILAP as a separate funding programme and the need for funding certainty

  • recognises the important role ATSILS play as community controlled organisations

  • emphasises the need for self-determination, and

  • supports the work of NATSILS as the national peak.

Please check back as we continue to update our website with relevant documents and a useful range of materials.