First Nations initiatives


Community Legal Centres NSW takes a whole-of-organisation approach to promoting access to justice for Aboriginal people. We do this by:

  • Our Aboriginal Legal Access Program aims to increase access to justice via a range of activities such as supporting community legal centres to develop culturally safe practices, supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community legal centre staff, supporting social change with our partner organisations in the legal assistance sector, and contributing to law reform activities.
    • Embedding cultural safety into the framework of community legal centres;
    • Improving the numbers of Aboriginal staff in the legal sector, and thereby strengthening community connections to civil and early intervention legal services;
    • Role-modelling employment pathways and culturally appropriate settings for legal education;
    • Developing and supporting relationships between community legal centres and local Aboriginal community controlled organisations and groups, including developing MOUs with the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT and with Tranby College.
  • Our First Nations Cadetship Program enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students to gain valuable work experience in community legal centres across New South Wales.
  • Our Advocacy and Communications team positions Aboriginal justice issues central to its work, and advocates around issues including raising the age of criminal responsibility, ending forced adoptions, police accountability, and ending Aboriginal deaths in custody.
  • Our Accreditation program supports the sector to meet the Cultural Safety Standard in the National Accreditation Scheme.
  • Our Sector Development team delivers quarterly sector mini-conferences that always provide training and/or discussion that aims to support the sector to increase access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW.
  • Our entire team participates in Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training and Aboriginal community days like Yabun and NAIDOC.

Work of the community legal sector to promote First Nations justice

The main purposes of community legal centres are to provide legal services to people in the community who experience significant social and economic disadvantage, to provide community legal education to empower people and communities, and to advance the law so that it is fair and just to everyone.

As a sector, we strive to provide legal services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW. There are 22 community legal centres with a specific Aboriginal program, and there are more than 30 Aboriginal staff members employed across these centres. All of these staff members work to connect the community to legal assistance.

This work is our core business. We recognise our society’s significant gaps in social outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. As such, we know that Aboriginal justice issues are critical to our purpose of supporting a fair, just, and equitable society.

We recognise and acknowledge that Aboriginal community-controlled organisations are best placed to provide services to Aboriginal communities. Whilst we are community organisations and we are not part of government, only 3 out of the 40 community legal centres are Aboriginal controlled organisations. However, there are over 30 Aboriginal staff members across the NSW community legal centre sector. This is because we know that access to justice means more than simply access to sandstone buildings - it’s about connecting through culturally safe relationships to provide professional legal services in local settings.

In 2019 we developed a map of Aboriginal justice initiatives being conducted across NSW community legal centres, and we are committed to reviewing this annually and publishing the results of this review. We want to hold ourselves accountable for our performance in this area.

We recognise that, as a sector, we have a long way to go. But we are committed to enhancing the cultural safety of our work and doing better work to promote access to justice for Aboriginal people.

Do you need free legal help? Want to talk with a community organisation who is not part of government?

Community legal centres are community-embedded organisations that can help with legal problems. If you are an Aboriginal person in NSW looking for legal help, please see our Find legal help - for Aboriginal people page for further information.

Latest news

15 Jun 2020

Submission to the Inquiry into lessons to be learned in relation to the Australian bushfire season 2019-20

11 Jun 2020

Nassim Arrage writes on the importance of supporting people demonstrating as part of the Black Lives Matter and Stop Deaths in Custody movements, and the role of Legal Observers at demonstrations.

21 May 2020

 For National Reconciliation Week, Community Legal Centres NSW will be hosting a virtual film screening of '88', a Q&A, and a screening of the trailer for 'In My Blood It Runs'. The event will be held via Zoom, next Thursday, 28 May at 12:30pm-2:30pm. All are welcome to join!

27 Mar 2020

To ensure the potential social harms caused by COVID-19 are minimised to the greatest extent possible, Community Legal Centres NSW has worked with expert specialist community legal centres within our membership to develop a set of critical social policy interventions.