Over the next decade, it will be important for CLCs to have a strong, collective voice in the community and to government to ensure that CLCs remain influential and sustainable in the long-term.
Despite the many common elements of CLCs in Victoria, due to their historically independent and distinct nature some CLCs have not necessarily viewed themselves as part of a ‘sector’. Limited funding and resources has meant the CLCs have historically had to protect what is theirs and focus on providing assistance to their immediate community.
As we move into the next decade, there is an opportunity to think about how CLCs can further strengthen their influence and ability to achieve their goals collectively, given that there is so much that unites us.
A few ways that we could strengthen our influence as a sector are:
The community legal sector plays a unique role in policy development and law reform in Victoria. Given that CLC clients are often the people who are the most vulnerable in society, CLCs advocate for improvements to policy, legislation, and support systems to promote equality and ensure that all Victorians have access to justice.
The work of CLCs often includes advocating for improvements to government processes and decision-making, and raising awareness about systemic issues that generate inequality because these issues particularly affect CLC clients. In this way, CLCs both assist their clients in the individual sense and in the collective sense.
CLCs have a unique contribution to make to the political landscape and policy decision-making in Victoria because they have first-hand experience and insight into the impact of law reform and policy changes on the ground. It is therefore vitally important for CLCs to have a voice in public debate to ensure that decision-makers understand the needs of Victoria’s people who are experiencing the most disadvantage. In the fight for equality in Victoria, CLCs have a vested interest and their voices must be at the forefront.
However, many CLCs do not receive any specific training on the best ways to influence policy development or law reform, despite their role in contributing to written submissions to government or providing case studies to demonstrate the impacts of laws or policies on their clients. With additional training and strategic planning, the influence of CLC sector advocacy could be significantly enhanced.
An important part of CLC work is raising the voice of the community and creating safe spaces for the community to speak out on issues that affect them. CLCs have a strong history of collective advocacy and have worked together to fight for reforms to make society fairer and more equal. Many CLCs also undertake individual campaigns or prepare individual submissions to inquiries or royal commissions, and will engage in lobbying efforts individually. Given the limited resourcing of CLCs and the strength in numbers of having CLCs across Victoria combining their advocacy efforts, there is an opportunity for CLCs to be more coordinated in their advocacy and having a stronger, collective voice.