About the Data Consistency Guide

Updated as at 6 August 2019.  The Guide is a living document, and CLCs Australia invites feedback and contributions. While definitions of service types are now largely fixed, other text may be edited for clarification.  Additional Case Studies and Resources may also be developed.

Each page in the Guide is headed with a date of last update, and more details about version history can be found at the bottom of the page. 

Word and PDF versions of the Guide are available here.

What is the Data Consistency Guide?

The Data Consistency Guide has been prepared by Community Legal Centres Australia to assist your Centre - whether it is a community legal centre, Family Violence Prevention Legal Service, or another type of legal service -  to understand how to record data relating to your legal and non-legal work.

The Guide is about interpreting events and interactions between Centre staff and people so that they align with the data definitions used by other Centres across Australia.  

The Guide uses as its starting point the National Legal Assistance Data Standards.

The Guide however provides much greater clarification, and useful case studies, to guide staff in recording their work. In some situations, the Guide differs from the Data Standards Manual, because the Manual as settled in 2015-2016 did not accurately capture the work of community legal centres.

CLCs Australia is continuing to discuss proposed changes with all of you, and with the National Data Standards Working Group.

Who should use this Guide?

This Guide will help all community legal centres and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (collectively, Centres) understand how to record services so that your practices align with other Centres across Australia.

Most Centres across Australia (around 150) are using CLASS as their client management database. For this reason the Guide contains helpful hints and cross-references to the CLASS Online Guide. Please be patient as we create and update these links - feel free to email us if you find a broken link.

How was the Guide developed?

The Guide was developed as part of the Data Consistency Project which commenced in July 2018.

During our consultations as part of the Data Consistency Project, we found many Centres had developed their own interpretations of the Data Standards Manual and so there were wide variations in how Centres were recording their work. 

In January 2019 CLCs Australia provided feedback to the National Data Standards Working Group about changes to the Manual that we felt would clear up areas of vagueness and also align with legal practice in our sector. These recommended changes are incorporated into this Guide. The Data Standards Working Group is continuing to meet in 2019 to discuss any potential changes.

Some of you may disagree with the interpretations and clarifications regarding service types set out in this Guide. During consultations we found many people were passionate about particular interpretations of the Data Standards Manual, even when advised that how they were recording items was out of step with the Data Standards Manual. 

However, we hope that you appreciate the need for national data consistency.  The Productivity Commission has strongly criticised the poor data-recording practices of community legal centres in the past (see Data Standards). Data recording is not a science.  There is no right way or wrong way - what is important is that we all try to record the same types of work (the same interactions between the Centre and people seeking help) in the same way.  We can then explain our common data definitions to governments, funders, our Boards, and the world.

Feedback and suggestions always welcome 

We see the Data Consistency Guide as a work-in-progress.  We will continue working on it to provide greater clarity, more useful case studies, and more resources. We also actively invite comments and feedback from all of you, who are faced with applying the service definitions on the ground, and are best-place to advise us if we got it wrong.

More information about how to provide feedback is available from the feedback page.

Other tools and resources

CLCs Australia will be developing a webinar and planning face-­to­-face visits around Australia as much as we can.

We are also developing a flow­chart that will assist Centre staff identify which service type applies to particular interactions. If you have ideas for other resources to help you understand the Guide, please let us know in your feedback.

Definitions of terms used in this Guide

This Guide capitalises terms which have a particular meaning. Please go to the Data Dictionary if you are not sure what a particular word means.  If you feel that a particular word should be defined and put in the Dictionary, please let us know.

I've read this Guide and I still need help

For information about using CLASS, a good place to start is the CLASS Online Guide.

For personalised assistance contact the CLASS Helpdesk:

1300 484 498


If you have a specific query about the Data Consistency Guide you can directly email dataconsistency@clcs.org.au. 


Page version history:
24 August 2020: Email changed to dataconsistency@clcs.org.au and CLASS helpdesk email changed to info@clcs.org.au
10 December 2019: NACLC to CLCs Australia
2 August 2019: Slight changes to text about tools and resources
29 June 2019: Deleted text advising of the survey and consultation process
28 April 2019: Page included notes extending consultation dates to May, about a Word and PDF version of the Draft Guide
March 2019: First draft version published