Our impact: Annual Report 2020-21


This year at a glance

Download our 2020-21 Annual Report

This year community legal centres in NSW supported more than 54,000 people and provided more than 185,000 services. Our movement supports people experiencing violence and abuse, financial hardship, housing insecurity, discrimination, and other legal issues.

There are 40 community legal centres across New South Wales. From Broken Hill in the Far West to the South Coast to inner Sydney: we are there supporting communities, challenging injustice, and advocating for a fairer society.

We connected 24,000 people with free and independent legal help through our online recommendation service. Finding support can be a difficult and confusing process, and our digital tools help break down these barriers and make it easier to access justice.

In 2020-21, we called for sustainable funding for community legal centres through a Pre-Budget Submission, the NSW budget lock-up process, and our sustained advocacy to government.

We focused on maintaining funding for community legal centres to June 2025, strengthening our disaster response and readiness, funding for families and children in out-of-home care, addressing postcode inequality to cover geographic service gaps, and legal support for victim-survivors of domestic and family violence.

Our team focused on creating spaces for collaboration and professional development, in spite of the challenges of the pandemic. We organised over 90 networking and training sessions and an in-person annual conference.

Our diverse training program provided staff at community legal centres with opportunity for professional development in diverse areas. This year we organised sessions on climate justice and disaster resilience, legal observing, writing in plain English, social movement lawyering, our ethical responsibilities when working with people experiencing vulnerability, care and protection, managing social media, court advocacy, Centrelink and debt, disability and discrimination, and more.

Download our 2020-21 Annual Report

Chair and Director’s Report

Tim Leach and Arlia Fleming

We’re proud to introduce the Community Legal Centres NSW Annual Report 2020-21. As a peak, we’re privileged to be a part of this incredible sector and we’ve been in awe of our members this year as they have continued to deliver for clients and communities.

Despite the pandemic and its myriad challenges, community legal centres have this year delivered free, professional, and highly regarded legal and related services to nearly 55,000 people across the state. Our members’ work has impact that changes lives for the better.

This year, we’re taking a different approach to reporting our work, with a focus on eight over-arching pursuits: building a strong community movement; securing sustainable sector funding to enable our members to keep doing what their communities and clients need; standing up for First Nations justice; strengthening cultural safety in the sector; working for justice for people experiencing family, sexual and domestic abuse; our work in relation to climate justice and disaster response; justice for younger people; and building healthy and caring communities. In each of these sections you’ll see the different dimension of our organisation’s work – our work in fostering collaboration, in provision of training, our services to members, our policy and advocacy, our communications work, and more. You’ll also see the work of many of our forty members through a series of case studies, client stories and service profiles.

Our format seeks to remind readers of our sector’s relentless efforts to make the legal system fairer. Emerging from the stories of 55,000 clients each year is a clear picture of the structural problems within the justice sector, the ones that force people into the criminal justice system, that give rise to legal problems that impact people’s safety and health, that prevent these same people from ever getting a fair outcome, and that weaken the communities in which we live. To us it seems clear that there is no point in knowing what the problems are if you’re not going to try and fix them, so we are unashamedly advocates for change. We work with governments, communities, and all parts of the justice system to bring about this change.

We would like to acknowledge the hardworking members of the Community Legal Centres NSW Board and all the team at Community Legal Centres NSW. We applaud the work of our members, recognising that the achievements of the peak are grounded in and dependent on the achievements of our members. We say thanks to our members for inspiring and supporting our organisation. We have been fortunate to have, in The Hon. Mark Speakman SC, an Attorney General who understands and supports the work of community legal centres, and we have appreciated the hard work and support of our colleagues at Legal Aid NSW’s Community Legal Centres Program and the Department of Communities and Justice.

We commend this Annual Report to you all.