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History of community legal centres

Community legal centres were established in response to the significant lack of access to legal services for a broad section of the community.

The genesis of community legal centres in Australia started in 1971 with a group of Monash University law students who established a legal advice service at the Melbourne Citizens Advice Bureau.

In 1972, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and Fitzroy Legal Service both opened, followed closely in 1973 by centres in Springvale, St Kilda, Broadmeadows and the Tenants Union. These were the first community legal centres in Australia. In 1982, the first regional Victorian community legal centre was established in Geelong.

The Federal Government first provided funding to a community legal centre in 1974 with the grant of $20,000 by the Australian Legal Aid Office to Fitzroy Legal Service. The Federal community legal centre funding program was formalised in 1979.

The first Victorian Government funding was provided in 1981 through the newly established Legal Aid Commission of Victoria (now Victoria Legal Aid).

There are now around 50 community legal centres around Victoria including 7 centres in rural and regional Victoria. There are now over 200 community legal centres around Australia.

The Justice For All booklet, published in 2011, outlines the history of Victorian CLCs and contains interviews with CLC workers.

The Federation of Community Legal Centres (Victoria)

In 1979 workers from a number of community legal centres in Victoria met to discuss issues of common concern and formed the Community Legal Centres Working Group. The group met regularly to exchange information and work on law reform and legal education issues.

In 1982, the group received funding as a Secretariat. The group was formally constituted in 1983 and in 1987 it was incorporated as the Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic).


Nunawading Legal Service

Springvale Legal Service