October 12, 2023 |
On 12 October 2023, the Federation of Community Legal Centres turned 40. Originally the Legal Centres Working Group, the Federation was established to bring together representatives from Victorian Community Legal Centres to work on joint issues. Today, the Federation represents the 4,000+ staff and volunteers at Victoria’s 47 Community Legal Centres, and is the peak body behind a powerful movement for social change.
Much has changed since the Federation’s humble beginnings. In 1983, when the Federation was first established, there were just 12 CLCs operating in Victoria, providing generalist services, as well as specialist services in areas of tenancy, consumer credit, women and students. The Federation’s inaugural annual report in 1983 stated its purpose: “to be a forum for the development and promotion of Federation policy, coordination of specific proposals on law reform, social change and funding, and liaison with other organisations and individuals; to resource and support the members of the Federation; and to encourage the development of Legal Centres in Victoria.”
The Federation continues to provide these supports to the community legal sector 40 years on – but its service delivery has expanded, diversified and modernised. The Federation now offers Member Community Legal Centres a range of diverse training opportunities; runs and supports innovative projects and programs that operate across the sector; ensures quality through an accreditation scheme; and heads up a Climate and Disaster Justice Unit that is a national leader in this emerging area of legal services. Once a Working Group itself, the Federation now supports 27 Working Groups, addressing issues from infringements to impact and evaluation.
At its heart, the values, vision and purpose of the Federation remain the same. The Federation continues to enable a strong collective voice for justice, leading Community Legal Centres in strategic and coordinated advocacy. And its core objective – to positively impact the communities we serve – is unwavering.
Happy birthday to the Federation of Community Legal Centres! We look forward to another 40 years of reshaping the way people access justice.