Community legal centres will be granted financial security for the next three years in the form of a record joint investment by the state and federal governments.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet this week promised a record funding injection of $83 million in investments for the community legal sector over the next three years.
“Community legal centres play a crucial role in delivering access to justice for people facing disadvantage. This investment will give the sector the financial security it needs to continue helping people suffering hardship to receive critical legal services,” Perrottet said.
“Eligible centres across all parts of NSW can also apply for funding to support more clients. This includes investing in regional areas where we know there is additional need.”
Almost $65 million will be allocated to CLCs to continue delivering their core services, while another $18.6 million has been earmarked for areas the government has deemed of greatest need – such as rural and remote communities, and domestic and family violence services. Centres working in these fields will be able to apply for additional funding.
The announcement comes after Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW) campaigned tirelessly for greater funding in the lead-up to the 2021-22 Budget. Greens MP and State Member for Newtown Jenny Leong was a vocal supporter of the campaign, calling on the government to invest an additional $11.68 million per year over three years into the community legal sector.
Tim Leach, the Executive Director of CLCNSW (pictured) said his organisation welcomed the new funding announcement. He said the three years of funding security would “give community legal centres the confidence to build new programs, as well as the ability to retain staff and a chance to do longer-term planning”.
“Community legal centres help nearly 55,000 people every year, and this funding will enable us to keep doing that. Our sector prides itself on innovation, and three years’ funding will also give us the chance to properly explore some new ways of assisting our communities,” he said.
“COVID-19 has presented significant challenges for the community legal sector. Our centres have adapted in order to continue delivering their life-saving work,” Leach said.
“This investment will provide critical funding security to our members so they can remain focused on helping vulnerable clients facing disadvantage and discrimination.”
Attorney General and Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman said the funding model would provide targeted need for victims of domestic and family violence.
“It will enable more women and children to escape domestic and family violence (DFV), support people facing financial insecurity and help thousands of vulnerable people across our communities get free legal support during their time of need,” Speakman said.
“Centres will be able to apply for targeted funding, which will be prioritised based on where the demand is. Not only will this ensure better access to legal support for communities, it will also help provide new services where we know there are gaps.”
Applications for the targeted funding will open in early November. Legal Aid NSW will manage the funding which will operate from 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2025.