National Community Legal Centres Conference 2023
In March 2023, Community Legal Centres Australia welcomed more than 500 delegates to nipaluna–Hobart for the first National Community Legal Centre Conference since 2019.
Delegates joined us from across the country from legal services, state and federal government agencies, law firms, the Australian Services Union and other stakeholders.
Our first conference in almost four years was the product of a huge effort over many months from the Conference Advisory Group, Community Legal Centres Australia staff and many others across the sector. We are so grateful to everyone who contributed to and supported the conference. We’d particularly like to acknowledge:
- The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre for arranging for us to be so warmly welcomed to Country, and for designing and delivering the plenary on First Nations justice issues
- Our sponsors, partners, and supporters, whose generous financial support enabled us to subsidise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues and colleagues from RRRR centres to be part of the event
- Our Conference Advisory Group, whose months of hard work resulted in a diverse and engaging program and an all-round stellar event
- All our speakers and presenters who delivered two social events, four plenary sessions, 20 breakout sessions, two walking tours, three lunchtime events and three masterclasses
- The many people who volunteered to chair sessions, who helped ensure each session and the program overall ran smoothly
- Our conference organiser, Think Business Events, whose tireless work behind the scenes enabled us to deliver and professional and seamless program of sessions and events.
For those who attended, it was a chance to experience the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm generated by coming together with friends, colleagues, and peers to share ideas, make new connections, and have some fun. We trust that the opportunities to connect, share ideas and learn about emerging themes and issues will deliver benefits across the sector.
Thanks also to the 159 people who responded to our post-conference survey. Overall, we got a lot of positive feedback and some constructive suggestions. We’ll use your ideas to make sure the next national conference is even better.
The survey reveals that the opportunity to network was the single biggest reason for attending, but program content was identified as the biggest factor in deciding whether to attend another conference in the future. Around 90% of respondents said they would be likely or very likely to attend future national conferences coordinated by Community Legal Centres Australia.
Rodney Croome’s walking tours stood out as a highlight. Of course, this speaks to the quality of the experience, but we also see in this a suggestion that more varied formats and mediums of presentation might be welcomed by attendees.
There were a few trends that emerged from the feedback that gave us insights into how we can do better next time.
Timeline – Some wanted the program to be released earlier in relation to the opening for registrations and the cut-off for early bird pricing. This year’s conference was much earlier in the year than previous conferences, meaning a lot of key work was being done over the sector’s quiet period between Christmas and Survival Day, with some key speakers and sponsorship arrangements still being finalised in the early months of 2023.
Cost of travel – It’s important that the conference reflect the nation-wide sector to which it belongs. It’s important to rotate the location. Many people loved the choice of nipaluna–Hobart, but we acknowledge that for some delegates, the travel distance and lower number of accommodation options in a smaller capital had an impact on travel costs. We were happy to be able to offer more than $50 000 in travel subsidies as a result of fundraising efforts. This money helped First Nations delegates and staff from more remote centres (who made up around 25% of attendees) to attend.
Celebrating 50 years – Overall the mood at the conference was good, particularly the social events. Some respondents felt we could have found more meaningful ways to celebrate our identity and achievements as a sector, and some would have liked more structure at the social events.
The four aspects of the conference that received the highest ratings were the venue overall, the degree of accessibility of the venue, the opportunity for networking and the registration process. We’re pleased to see how the huge effort across the conference team, Community Legal Centres Australia, the Conference Advisory Group and the broader sector is reflected in the high ratings these elements received.