Briefing: 2021-22 Pre-Budget submission


It is vital that everyone in New South Wales can access the community legal help that they need. That's why our 2021 Pre-Budget Submission focuses on ensuring equal access to justice for everyone in NSW. We're calling on the NSW Government to provide community legal centres with adequate funding so that we are able to help our communities facing financial hardship, disadvantage, discrimination, natural disasters, and domestic and family violence.

We believe that getting legal help shouldn’t be determined by your bank balance or postcode. Everyone in NSW should be able to access independent and affordable legal advice. However, many people experiencing disadvantage and discrimination can’t access appropriate legal supports where and when they need them. Without legal assistance, people’s problems can spiral out of control, pushing them into poverty, homelessness, debt, and danger. This leads to more people interacting with public hospitals, police, courts, prisons, and the out-of-home care system

There is no shortage of legal need in NSW. Many community legal centres struggled to meet demand for services even before COVID-19 struck. The pandemic’s social and economic impacts have thrown up many legal issues that disproportionately harm the people and communities that community legal centres support: those reliant on social security, living on low incomes or with insecure work, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with disabilities, renters, people experiencing homelessness, and people experiencing domestic violence.

Community legal centres make a little go a long way. We are well-recognised as effective and efficient service providers. In the 2019-20 financial year, community legal centres in NSW supported at least 53,757 people. Almost 75% were experiencing financial hardship and 21% had experienced domestic and family violence.

Key recommendations 

Our 2021-22 Pre-Budget Submission includes recommendations for the expansion of the NSW Community Legal Centre Program, as well as specialised funding requests for particular areas of legal need. Overall, we recommend that the NSW Government invest an additional $11.68 million per year over the next four years into the community legal centre sector in NSW.

  • Maintain increased funding for community legal centres to June 2025. $5.43 million per year into the NSW Community Legal Centre Program to enable the sector to meet increased demand for services arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to develop innovative tech-based solutions to address legal need in their communities.

  • Strengthen our disaster response and readiness. $1.5 million recurrent funding for community legal centres to respond to legal need in bushfire affected communities and prepare for future disasters.

  • Increase access to justice in NSW. $655,000 to include the NSW operations of four national community legal centres within the NSW Community Legal Centres Program.

  • Ensure that everyone in NSW has access to free community legal help no matter their postcode. $698,000 to cover geographic service gaps.

  • Support families and children in out-of-home care. $490,000 to restore child protection services defunded by Legal Aid NSW in 2019.

  • Support victim-survivors of domestic and family violence. $2.91 million to improve access to justice for people experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence.

  • Fund initiatives to reduce the over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. $19.3 million over five years to establish the Walama Court. Fund the full implementation of all 125 recommendations of the 'Family is Culture' Independent Review of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children in Out-of-Home Care in NSW.

Read our full 2021-22 Pre-Budget Submission