Community legal centres (CLCs) are independent, non profit, non government organisations with a strong focus on early advice, problem solving and working with other agencies to address connected legal, financial, social and health problems.
Community legal centres focus on helping people who don’t qualify for legal aid and mainly help people with civil and family law issues, like debt, family violence, tenancy, employment law and relationship breakdown. Due to funding shortages, community legal centres focus on assisting disadvantaged Australians. Over 80 per cent of the people helped by community legal centres earn under $26,000 a year.
As well as helping on individual issues, community legal centres provide community legal education to inform Australians about the law and how to prevent legal problems, and undertake law reform work to fix problems with the law. Thousands of lawyers and law students around Australia volunteer in community legal centres, and centres also receive substantial pro bono support from private law firms.
The following are examples of the type of legal problems that CLCs have assisted with. Note: Individuals’ names have been changed.
CLC helps elderly woman ripped off by electrician
Marjorie was an elderly woman, who was overcharged $5,000 for $700 worth of electrical work. Her local CLC helped her to lodge a tribunal claim and the electrician was forced to pay her back.
CLC helps driver prevent bankruptcy and sale of family home
Darshan drove a taxi for a living, and had recently purchased a home for his young family. He was served with bankruptcy summons after a taxi club ‘insurer’ failed to pay up following an accident. Bankruptcy would have caused Darshan to lose his home. A CLC negotiated with a number of parties involved which resulted in bankruptcy action being dropped and no payments being sought from Darshan.
CLC gets insurer to pay claim
John and Celia lost their home in a bush fire, but the insurer refused to pay as a result of an 8hour gap between the end of one insurance policy and commencement of another. A CLC assisted them, and argued that the new insurer should have been aware of, and informed John and Celia about this risk when providing the policy. The claim was paid.
Woman suffering long-term family violence safety ensured with CLC help
Ellen had been a victim of violence by her husband for years. Depression and anxiety, as well as her poor financial circumstances, had prevented her from taking action, but she eventually sought help from a CLC. She made an application for an intervention order with the help of the CLC, which also represented her at the court hearing, enabling her to finally ensure her safety. While she has some ongoing legal issues, she is no longer in fear of physical violence.
CLC helps sexually abused young woman
Anh was a young woman who had been placed under a guardianship order, which was initiated by her father, who claimed that his daughter was suffering from mental illness. Anh sought help from a CLC, stating that she was being sexually abused by her father. While a complex case, the CLC managed to prove the abuse and ensure the woman’s safety. Further legal action is pending, including an application for ‘victim of crime’ compensation.
CLC helps mentally ill young man seek relief from fines
Damien contacted a CLC, concerned about his son who had been hospitalised for mental illness for past 6 months, but had fines of $900 which he couldn’t pay. The CLC gave advice, which led to a successful request that the fines be waived.
Employee reinstated following CLC assistance in conciliation
Chan spoke limited English and sought help from a CLC because he felt he had been unfairly dismissed. The CLC assisted him in his case, and at the conciliation it became apparent that the problems leading to the dismissal related to communication problems arising from Chan’s lack of English, and the employer’s failure to respond appropriately. Chan was reinstated.