New report reveals inclusive nature of the community legal sector

May 13, 2022 |

The Victorian Community Legal Centre workforce is more inclusive than the public service, a new report from the Victoria Law Foundation has found.

The report, Working in Community Legal Centres in Victoria: Results from the Community Legal Centres Workforce Project was launched this week by the Federation of Community Legal Centres. The research was funded by the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner.

It found 17% of the community legal sector workforce identified as LGBTIQ, compared with 4.4% in the public sector, 9.9% reported a disability, compared with 2.5% in the public sector and 3.6% identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, compared with 1% in the public sector.

Federation CEO Louisa Gibbs said the Federation was committed to ensuring the long-term viability of the sector and the report provided the data to help support that aim.

“This project gives us better insight into the sector,” she said.

“It will enable us to better understand who works in the sector, the issues they face and where are the opportunities for improvement.

“And it is heartening to note that we have a relatively inclusive sector that better reflects the community we serve.”

The survey found an estimated 4,036 people work in Victorian Community Legal Centres, including 1,274 employees, 2,115 volunteers, 315 students and 332 board or management committee members.

Researcher Dr Jozica Kutin, Senior Researcher with the Victoria Law Foundation, noted the community legal sector was a gendered workplace and relatively young.

“Overall, 77% of the workforce are women, 22% are men, and 1.6% identify as non‐binary or gender diverse,” she said.

“With a gendered workforce comes, of course, gender‐based workplace issues.”

The survey, which has been split into five reports, also delved into the challenges faced by Community Legal Centres during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Kutin said the pandemic had catapulted Community Legal Centres and the whole justice sector into a largely online world. This had some advantages, but for many frontline staff, it had provided more complex and challenging working conditions.

“They lost valuable face-to-face interaction with clients and colleagues,” she said.

“And Community Legal Centre staff lost the ability for adhoc debriefing – all of which had an impact on their personal wellbeing.”

Ms Gibbs said the Federation would delve deeper into the findings to see how best to use the reports in the future.

“We’re already planning to use the rich data in these reports for advocacy, to work with universities to raise the interest of young people to join the community legal sector and to raise the profile of the expertise of the sector,” she said.

The full reports can be found here.

A video celebrating the Community Legal Centre workforce can be found here.

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