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What reforms would make a fairer future for communities in NSW? This question is at the crux of a new report released by Community Legal Centres NSW (CLC NSW), calling on the State Government to act and review policy in seven key areas.

On 11 August, CLC NSW unveiled the sector’s holistic vision for justice during the parliamentary launch of their report Change takes Community: Action for a fairer future, identifying reforms to make communities fairer, safer, more inclusive, secure, and put people back in charge of their own lives.

The comprehensive document is the culmination of 18 months of extensive consultation by CLC NSW with 41 centres across the state, including a review of existing policy and law reform work, written surveys, individual consultations, and feedback sessions.

The report draws upon the community legal centre sector’s extensive experience delivering 185,00 frontline legal services to over 54,000 people across NSW every year.

Attorney General Mark Speakman committed to studying the report which covers the fines system, preventing violence and abuse, safeguarding human rights, disrupting pathways to prison, the environment and keeping children out of the criminal justice system.

“I know it’s not easy, you are working with vulnerable people, dealing with overburdened and overloaded communities fighting flood, fire, drought and the pandemic,” Speakman said at the launch.

“But you are vital part of the legal assistance sector in NSW, a vital part of access to justice and a fair justice system, and also a vital part of policy change.”

Shadow Attorney General Michael Daley thanked the sector for the “great education” they continually provide to legislators.

“It is easy for us who are doing okay to take for granted that we’ve always got someone to help us, but we know that for some people that’s not the case,” Daley said.

“Community legal centres represent, in some cases, the last resort for people who are seeking the difference between a good or great outcome or catastrophe and disaster. Thank you for the work you do.”

The launch also included an insightful discussion with representatives from CLCs across the state including the Northern Rivers, Redfern, Youth Law Australia and Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre. The panel shared their unique challenges, including staff retention, funding, and disaster mitigation and preparedness.

“Our sector and the tens of thousands of people we represent believe that this means communities will be inclusive places where everyone is housed, fed, safe, cared for and has the support they need to thrive and participate,” Sarah Marland, Policy and Advocacy Manager at CLC NSW said.

Download the report here.

Main picture: Supplied by Community Legal Centres NSW