Raising awareness of ‘A Sector in Crisis’ with MPs in Canberra

April 05, 2024 |

Commonwealth Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC MP launched A sector in crisis, Community Legal Centres Australia’s (CLCA’s) report on the state of the community legal sector, at Parliament House in Canberra on 26 March 2024.  

The survey collected data from 117 Community Legal Centres across Australia and presents a vivid picture of centres struggling to respond to increasing demand for legal services while funding fails to keep pace. The report highlighted that 9 in 10 Community Legal Centres report an increase in demand for their services over the last year, and that nationally, they are forced to turn away over 1000 people a day due to insufficient resourcing. 

Attorney-General Dreyfus spoke at the launch of the report, saying, ‘Community Legal Centres have been leading the way, specialising in integrated practice [as well as] providing professional, non-legal support services to ensure our most vulnerable are supported when they need it most’.  

Speaking to the sector – including the more than 4,000 staff and volunteers in Victoria alone – he said, ‘I thank all of you for your efforts and for making a tangible difference to the lives of many thousands of Australians every year’.  
Gerard Brody, Chair of CLCA and Joanna Collins, CEO of Pilbara Community Legal Service, also spoke at the launch. Ms Collins told the story of ‘Mary’*, a 20-year-old woman with young children experiencing family violence, who has been supported by Pilbara Community Legal Service to pursue a better outcome for herself and her young family. 

The community legal sector utilised the launch of the report to further ongoing advocacy in relation to the review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP) and upcoming Federal Budget. Community Legal Centre representatives from six states and territories met with Federal Members of Parliament (MPs) to advocate for increased federal funding for CLCs nationally.   

Drawing on the evidence base provided by the ‘A sector in crisis’ report, key asks presented to MPs include: 

  1. An injection of an additional $125 million for Community Legal Centres for 2024-25 in the May 2024 Federal Budget.   
  2. A commitment to ongoing, increased NLAP funding for all legal assistance providers beyond June 2025, via the forward estimates.  
  3. The immediate release of the NLAP Review Report.    

During the week, the Federation met with Victorian Federal MPs Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah MP, Kate Thwaites MP, Senator Jana Stewart, Cassandra Fernando MP, and Libby Coker MP, as well as the Office of Women. Each MP, as well as others who attended the launch, demonstrated an appreciation for the work done by CLCs and committed to continuing to engage with the sector as well as the CLCs in their electorate.  
The Federation would like to thank CLCA for organising the event, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus for launching the report and his continued support of the sector, and each MP who attended the launch or met with delegates. 

*name changed for privacy. 

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