Generalist Specialist CLC Project - Phase 1

Phase One: Planning, research, and sector-wide consultation
(Dec 2016 – Sep 2017)

In the first half of 2017, after formulating a project plan, we conducted extensive research and consultation in order to fully understand current CLC practices. Focusing on internal CLC operations such as triage, intake, and referrals, as well as inter-CLC support mechanisms such as secondary consultation, training, mentoring, secondments, networking, and information-sharing, we developed a clear snapshot of the relevant aspects of the CLC sector. We used that information to develop a suite of pilot models designed to address the key areas for improvement. This was collated into interim findings which we circulated to relevant stakeholders for discussion and feedback.

Click below for more information on each of the different elements of Phase One:



Project planning commenced in early 2016 between VLA and a diverse group of CLCs that had originally applied for funding under the Innovation and Transformation Fund. In mid-2016 VLA approved the funding and granted it to the FCLC to run the Project.

In December 2016, Project Manager, Michael Tamblyn, commenced at the FCLC and worked with VLA and the Steering Committee. In early 2017 they worked together to finalise the project plan.


Desk-top research took place in the first half of 2017. Academics, legal practitioners and research staff at VLA were consulted and a team of four research interns [hyper link to intern names – list provided below] was recruited. Employing the ‘snowball methodology’, the relevant literature was reviewed; including state-wide, national and international studies and reports to determine the extent to which the interplay between generalist and specialist services had been studied before.


Widespread consultation was conducted in May, June and July 2017 in order to get a snapshot of the relationship between specialist and generalist CLCs in Victoria. 100 staff and volunteers from 23 different CLCs (10 Generalist, 9 Specialist and 4 RRR) were consulted. 21 CLC site-visits across the State were conducted (including to Mildura, Bendigo, Ballarat and Morwell) where front-desk operations, advice lines, and night clinics were observed. 85 CLC personnel responded to an on-line survey. Comprehensive data was gathered and categorised throughout this process.

Interim findings and pilot model design

In August and September 2017, the Project team and Steering Committee analysed the data from the research and consultations described above. We considered the experiences, opinions, and work practices of the individuals and CLCs with whom we had consulted and sought to identify common challenges.  

We found that there exist opportunities for improvement in the flow of expertise and assistance between Generalist and Specialist CLCs, with particular focus on the following three areas:

  1. Understanding other CLCs’ work;
  2. Triage and referral processes; and
  3. Collaboration between CLCs.

We postulated that these three areas were inter-related and improvement in one would result in improvement of all three.

Drawing from this analysis, and undertaking a consultative brainstorming process, we designed a series of prototype models. Initially, we proposed 12 stand-alone models, then, in recognition of the need for an integrated approach to address the above mentioned challenges, we put forward a total of five integrated pilot models to be tested:

  1. “Ending the Referral Roundabout” - Designed to test a best-practice system under which a client can approach a Generalist CLC for assistance and an experienced lawyer will conduct triage; either giving the client the help the immediate help they need, booking them in for a casework appointment or referring them with accuracy and certainty to the appropriate Specialist CLC.
  2. “Collaborative Casework” - Designed to test a clinical approach to increasing immediate inter-CLC access to expertise, and following it up with ongoing collaborative casework.
  3. “Sharing Expertise” - Designed to test a collaborative approach to identifying information and training needs, followed by the focused application of that newly imparted knowledge.
  4. “Collaborative Advocacy” - Designed to test the use of collaborative systemic advocacy as a medium for increasing expertise and understanding of specialist fields amongst generalist CLCs.
  5. “In situ Exchanges” - Designed to test a formalised approach to in situ personnel exchanges as a means of improving understanding of services and building capacity in expertise.

For greater detail on the integrated approach to improving the specialist-generalist interplay, the twelve stand-alone models, and the five integrated models, click here.

We presented these findings and corresponding models in an interim report, which we circulated to the Victorian CLC sector and a broader group of stakeholders; including Victoria Legal Aid, the National Association of Community Legal Centres, CLCs Queensland, CLCA WA, Banyule Community Health Service, and the Centre for Culture Ethnicity and Health, from whom we sought further feedback.

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