Federal Budget response: 2020-2021

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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