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Our members are dedicated to providing free legal advice and support to those in need who might not have access to such services otherwise. We understand the importance of having access to reliable legal information, and that is why we have established a network of centers throughout metropolitan and rural South Australia. These centers are staffed by highly qualified solicitors, advisors, and support staff who are dedicated to helping the community in any way they can. Our members are passionate about ensuring that everyone has equal access to justice, regardless of their financial situation or background. Our Centers are welcoming and friendly, and our team of solicitors, advisors, and support staff are always ready to take the time to listen to your concerns and help you understand your legal rights and obligations. At our Centers, you can expect to receive a comprehensive explanation of your legal rights and options, along with guidance on the best course of action for your situation. They will also provide you with referrals to other resources and organisations that can assist you further. Each year, over 15,000 people access our free legal advice and support services, and we are proud to be a valuable resource for the community. Our mission is to ensure that everyone has access to the legal help they need to make informed decisions and achieve positive outcomes. If you need legal advice or support, we encourage you to visit one of our centers or get in touch with us to schedule an appointment.
What legal matters can Community Legal Centres help with? The law is part of our everyday lives – such as when we buy something, use a service, have a job, or rent a house. The law can help to protect and support families when there is violence in the home, or when there are decisions to be made about parenting arrangements for children. Sometimes we might find ourselves in contact with police and the legal system, either charged with committing a crime, or as a victim of crime. Laws affect our human rights and the protection of the environment. And sometimes we need to understand the law to navigate specific government systems, like Centrelink. For more than 40 years, Community Legal Centres have been providing community-based services to help Victorians with all these matters and more. Because we are a network of 10 organisations across the state, we can make sure that you are linked with the Community Legal Centre best placed to help you with your legal issues.
Do I have to pay for help from a Community Legal Centre? Our services are free. We believe everyone is entitled to know their rights, understand how the law affects them and achieve fair outcomes – no matter how much money they have or what their social status is, or where they live. Due to high demand for legal services, each Community Legal Centre has criteria in place to ensure resources are used to support those who need it most. Community Legal Centres also provide other services, such as legal information and education programs and online self-help tools, which may be available free of charge. We receive funding and support from a range of sources, including government, philanthropy, public donations, volunteers, pro bono and in-kind support.
What can I expect from a Community Legal Centre? At a Community Legal Centre, you will receive support from a team who are experts in their fields, and who provide a trauma-informed and culturally safe service. Community Legal Centres recognise that other social, emotional, health and financial issues may be affecting you, potentially exacerbating or compounding your legal issue. So, the team that supports you may include not just lawyers and paralegals, but also social workers, financial counsellors and other community services professionals from different disciplines. Importantly, Community Legal Centres do not operate in isolation. While individual Community Legal Centres have their own geographic and target communities, where possible, the community legal sector operates collaboratively to maximise its impact and promote best outcomes for the people we assist.
Are Community Legal Centres same as Legal Aid? Community Legal Centres are different from Legal Services Commission SA – but we work closely together. Legal services Commission is a South Australian Government statutory authority established by legislation. Legal Services Commission plays a crucial role in providing free advice and representation for people dealing with certain legal matters when they meet the Legal Aid eligibility criteria. Separately, Community Legal Centres have grown out of needs identified in communities and have evolved through grassroots support. Each Community Legal Centre is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that is separate from government. We provide services that respond to the needs of our specific communities. Community Legal Centres can be place-based, providing services across a range of legal issues to a geographic community; or specialist, focusing on specific areas of law (such as Women's Legal, consumer credit, neighbourhood mediation employment) or cohorts of people (such as women, young people, people with disability or the Elderly). In South Australia, this includes a specialist Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Services. Community Legal Centres and LSC have a close relationship and make referrals to each other to ensure that you receive legal services from the organisation best placed to help you.
How Long have Community Legal Centres Been around? The first community legal centres were established more than half a century ago by grassroots activists and advocates frustrated and angered by the injustices faced by their communities. They were responding to the unfairnesses of a legal system that punished poverty and difference. These first centres set about providing free legal help to people in need, and just as importantly, they used people’s stories to drive advocacy for legal system reform. In the early 1970s, groups of students, academics, youth workers and lawyers in Monash and Fitzroy began giving free legal help to people who needed it – these grew to become Fitzroy Legal Service and the South-East Monash Legal Service. A few years later, a group of lawyers, volunteers, academics, social workers, and community activists met in Redfern to explore the idea of “community control of legal services”. They advocated that everyone should be able to access justice, no matter their bank balance. In early years, Fitzroy Legal Service supported in the anti-conscription movement and advocated for better representation of young people in courts, while Redfern Legal Centre advocated for prison reform and helped defend people arrested at the first Mardi Gras in 1978. The first Community Legal Centre opened in the 1980's in South Australia and continues a legacy of access for justice.
Are Community Legal Centres Accredtied? Community legal centres have rigorous accreditation processes. Our National Accreditation Scheme commits all centres to continuous improvement across 17 standards of service delivery. Accreditation gives insight into each centre’s strengths and vulnerabilities. Good practice is shared so all centres can learn from others’ successes. Vulnerabilities inform state and territory peak bodies’ development of training and sector support programs. Accreditation gives the community confidence that the services they receive are based on best practice and industry standards.