Consensus on addressing unmet legal needs in regional, rural, remote and very remote areas

February 2024

The Regional, Rural, Remote and Very Remote (RRRR) Network recently made a 2024-25 pre-budget submission highlighting the particular needs and challenges for community legal centres in RRRR communities. Read on for some of what they said.

Submissions to the review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership (‘NLAP’) reveal strong consensus about major gaps in access to justice and legal assistance in regional, rural, remote and very remote (4Rs) areas. This is reflected, for example, in submissions to the review by:

  • all national legal sector peaks – Community Legal Centres Australia, Law Council of Australia, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum, and National Legal Aid
  • specialist peaks – including Women’s Legal Services Australia, YouthLaw Australia, Economic Justice Australia, and Financial Counselling Australia
  • many other contributors – including SNAICC, the Australian Services Union, and the Australian Pro Bono Centre.

Many submissions by metro-based legal efforts reflected solidarity with 4Rs communities, expressing frustration that their lack of resources limit what they could otherwise contribute in 4Rs areas.

Submissions from community-based services in and for 4Rs locations reflected the harrowing extent of the problems, for example, the undersupply of staff in many 4Rs areas, which involves many factors including a lack of a national 4Rs legal workforce plan.

The lengthy National Community Regional, Rural, Remote and Very Remote Network (4Rs Network) submission highlighted numerous problems, including systemic issues and how these play out. This submission was endorsed by over 30 services.

Given the seriousness of the situation and the momentum via the NLAP review process, the 4Rs Network urges all networks and stakeholders to advocate and collaborate in support of all 4Rs community-based legal sectors and services.

Below is a snapshot of the 4Rs NLAP submission.

4Rs community based legal services are in crisis

Fix metro-normativity


Stop using 4Rs location to deny access to justice, human rights, safety and wellbeing to First Nations people, children, youth, women, older people, people with disability and all vulnerable communities


Calling on the federal government to achieve a national 4Rs Access to Justice Plan (never been one)


Calling on the federal government to achieve a national 4Rs legal workforce plan (never been one) to address profound workforce needs


Calling on all stakeholders to achieve visible 4Rs access to justice accountability in all structures, processes, and programs


Calling on the federal government to ensure federal portfolio capacity across the board to respond to 4Rs legal needs 


Calling on the federal government to establish standards / benchmarks for access to legal assistance across 4Rs communities


Calling on all governments and national stakeholders to reconceptualise the National Legal Assistance Partnership to include parties, structures and focus for access to justice accountability to 4Rs communities


Calling on the federal government to make 4Rs access to justice data collection and reporting fit for purpose including accountability to 4Rs regions and communities

Fix resources


Calling on governments to ensure resources for wage justice for staff of 4Rs community based legal services


Calling on governments to at least double 4Rs community legal asssistance resources immediately


Calling on governments to bulid on this to implement rational, needs-based 4Rs legal assistance funding


Calling for federal funding 4Rs community legal services to collaborate and develop as a sector


Calling for federal funding for the 4Rs Network to hold a national gathering of 4Rs community based legal services and initiatives to increase impacts 

Other submissions by the 4Rs Network (2024-5 federal pre-budget submission, submission to the Robodebt Royal Commission) are here.

About the 4Rs Network

The 4Rs Network is a network of non-profit legal services in 4Rs areas which provide legal and related assistance via an incorporated non-profit structure or auspicing arrangement. The 4Rs Network’s services are based in, and/or service, localities within 4 of the 5 classes of remoteness including:
  • Inner Regional Australia
  • Outer Regional Australia
  • Remote Australia
  • Very Remote Australia
The 4Rs Network members work with and for their communities and regions. Their methods and programs often reflect deep understanding and long-term efforts to address important community needs. Their programs, services and advocacy often reflect involvement in community issues that have not been addressed by other means, including by local, state, or federal governments. The 4Rs Network has been facilitated from within, and supported by, Community Legal Centres Australia and builds on a significant history of community legal centre-based networking from the mid 1990s seeking to address the specific and nuanced legal needs and rights of regional, rural, and remote and very remote communities and thereby increase the wellbeing those living within them. The Network recently made a federal 2024-5 federal pre-budget submission, available here. Supporters are encouraged to connect and assist. The 4Rs Network meets by Zoom on the first Wednesday of each month and can be contacted via Cheryll Rosales (to be added to the Zoom meeting and email list) or co-convenors Haley McEwen and Judy Harrison.