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Annual Report 2021 - 2022


Community legal centres

Legal Aid NSW administers funding on behalf of the NSW Government, Commonwealth Government and Public Purpose Fund for the Community Legal Centres (CLC) Program in NSW.

The CLC Program funds 32 generalist and specialist community legal centres and the state peak body Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW). The CLC Program also funds the Aboriginal Legal Access Program, the Children’s Court Assistance Scheme and the Court Support Scheme, which provide complementary non-legal support services in courts and CLCs.

CLCs are independent, non-government organisations that provide free legal services to the public, with a focus on people facing social and financial disadvantage. In addition to funding available through the CLC Program, CLCs may also receive funding from a variety of other government and non-government sources.


A total of $32,593,714 was paid to CLCs and CLCNSW through the CLC Program in 2021–2022.

Community legal centres

More details about funding can be found in Appendix 4.

Fact file
In 2021–2022, CLCs funded through the Community Legal Centres Program:
  • assisted 36,401 people.
  • provided 44,911 legal advice services and 10,300 legal tasks for clients.
  • opened 3,719 representation services and closed 3,974 representation services, including 1,300 court and tribunal services.
  • provided 1,387 duty lawyer services.
  • delivered 865 community legal education activities and created 391 resources, and
  • made 62,557 referrals.

Services for flood-affected communities

In February and March 2022, at least 60 local government areas across NSW were impacted by severe flooding. The Commonwealth Government allocated more than $3 million to legal assistance providers in NSW to support people affected by the floods.

Four CLCs were awarded Flood Assistance Support funding to increase their capacity to provide legal assistance to the people and communities that need it most. Northern Rivers CLC and Western Sydney CLC are local, generalist services in impacted areas. Justice Connect and the Tenants’ Union of NSW are specialist services that will provide extra assistance in their areas of law.

CLCs responded quickly to provide services at Disaster Recovery Centres and in communities that were still accessible. Mobile services were provided by travelling lawyers and virtual services increased to help meet increased demand. As a result of the funding boost, CLCs will employ more lawyers and non-legal staff such as social workers, purchase a vehicle, and help connect people with pro bono legal services. CLCs will also continue to work in collaboration with our Disaster Response Legal Service to ensure clients have access to the services they need.

Client satisfaction higher than ever

This year we commissioned CLCNSW to lead the biennial Community Legal Services Client Survey for the CLC Program, which showed client satisfaction is higher than ever.

The project provided a single client survey used by CLCs, advice and support to CLC staff and volunteers to conduct the survey, and a comprehensive report on the results for each participating centre and the NSW sector.

We worked with CLCNSW to develop broader outcomes-focused questions for clients in 2021–2022, expanding on previous surveys that collected quantitative data. The project fulfilled the requirements of the National Legal Assistance Partnership 2020–25 by including mandatory questions developed by the Commonwealth that are designed to measure the effectiveness of community legal services across Australia.

The survey results showed a very high level of satisfaction from clients who received services from the CLC Program. The highest positive responses related to the clients’ personal experience of the way they were treated and their opinion of the centre whose support they accessed. 96% of respondents stated the CLC helped them understand how to deal with their legal problem and 97% would recommend the service to other people.

Outcomes-focused questions also highlighted the positive impact of CLC services on clients’ lives. 88% of respondents said assistance from the CLC had made a positive impact. Other positive responses indicated that clients felt that CLCs had improved their wellbeing, money situation, housing situation or safety.

Increasing CLC employment opportunities for First Nations people

This year, the CLC sector received funding to establish a First Nations Cadetship Program. Funding was awarded by the NSW Attorney General through the National Legal Assistance Partnership 2020–2025. The cadetship program was open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the final two years of a degree in law, social work, community development or communications.

Four university students undertook cadetships at Redfern Legal Centre, the Seniors Rights Service, University of Newcastle Legal Centre and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre on rotation, where they received practical work experience, training and mentoring. The cadets also received support from a cadetship coordinator and the Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW) Aboriginal Advisory Group.

The cadetship program aimed to address the underrepresentation of First Nations people working in the legal sector and strengthen the services CLCs provide to First Nations clients across NSW. The program had a positive impact on participating centres, clients, and cadets – who gained important on-the-ground skills and experience that will assist them in their careers.

Inaugural conference for First Nations staff

A major highlight of 2021–2022 was the inaugural Big Yarn Up, a three-day gathering of 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff employed across the NSW CLC sector. The event was held on Gumbaynggirr Country in Coffs Harbour.
CLCNSW received CLC Program funding to host the conference and invite all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in NSW CLCs to attend. Aboriginal staff from the CLC Program Unit at Legal Aid NSW and the Aboriginal Legal Service were also invited to connect with their colleagues at CLCs and participate in workshops.

The Big Yarn Up was developed by the CLCNSW Aboriginal Advisory Group. There has been significant growth in the employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the community legal sector in recent years, with over 65 First Nations staff in 2021–22. The Aboriginal Advisory Group identified the need to develop principles for supporting First Nations employment in CLCs in NSW, and to create opportunities to connect with communities across the state.

The Big Yarn Up was a recuperative and collaborative event that focused on how the CLC sector can be culturally inclusive and diverse, and provide meaningful support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.

The program also focused on self-care and building relationships across the sector. Sessions covered cultural self-care and vicarious trauma, and social and legal issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Attendees yarned about experiences in a culturally safe environment and exchanged strategies for effective service delivery in CLCs.

Additional Commonwealth funding to support vulnerable people and communities

In 2021–22, the CLC Program received additional Commonwealth funding for four years up to 30 June 2025. Funding will assist 12 CLCs to support domestic and family violence victim-survivors, people with mental health conditions and people who have experienced sexual harassment and discrimination in their workplace.

Positive evaluation of the Children’s Court Assistance Scheme

The CLC Program supported an independent evaluation of the Children’s Court Assistance Scheme (CCAS) from the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre in 2021–2022. CCAS provides tailored information, referrals and support to young people appearing at seven Children’s Courts across NSW. CCAS also provides assistance to accompanying family, carers, and friends.

CCAS has been operating since the early 1980s and is currently provided by the Central Coast CLC, Illawarra Legal Centre, Macarthur Legal Centre and Western Sydney CLC. It is funded through the CLC Program. CCAS facilitates access to legal and social support services and provides vital information about how the court operates.

The evaluation indicated that CCAS was an essential service that benefited children and young people, and supported a more effective Children’s Court.

A range of stakeholders participated in the evaluation, including children’s magistrates, Children’s Court registry staff, children’s lawyers, and other services that support vulnerable young people.

Strengths of the program include the rapport staff have with vulnerable children and young people, effective collaboration with other services at court, and follow-up support that helps young people with their social, welfare or financial problems.

In 2022–23, we will support CCAS to improve data collection, apply an outcomes framework, and collaborate on law reform activities and other projects.

Building financial management capacity in the CLC sector

In 2021–2022, we worked with the CLCNSW Financial Service to strengthen the capacity of CLCs to practise financial management. The Financial Management Training Program delivered six training sessions covering topics tailored to the CLC Program. Topics included budgeting, financial sustainability and risk management, governance and the financial responsibilities of boards, and understanding CLC Program reporting obligations.

Introductory, mid-level and masterclass sessions were available. Training was well attended by a variety of staff across the sector, including principal solicitors, financial staff, centre management, and board members. Attendees provided positive feedback on the relevance of information presented, the practical tools and templates provided, and the ongoing opportunities for mentoring and support available within the sector.

Another positive outcome of the training program was streamlining CLC Program reporting arrangements. We co-designed user-friendly financial templates with CLCNSW and a focus group of CLCs, and have moved to a standard accounting and reporting system used by charities and non-government organisations nationwide.

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will support the CLC sector to increase its capacity to help people experiencing or at risk of family and domestic violence.
  • We will continue to support CLCs in a range of access to justice initiatives for First Nations people.
  • We will implement the outcomes of the 2022 application process for CLC funding.
  • We will continue to collaborate with CLCs in response to natural disasters.

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program

Legal Aid NSW administers NSW Government funding for Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCASs) across the state through our Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program (WDVCAP) Unit.

WDVCASs provide women experiencing domestic and family violence and their children with information, advocacy, safety planning, referrals and support through the court process at all Local Courts across NSW.

WDVCASs play a key role in the NSW Government’s Safer Pathway Program, including providing secretariat and victim liaison support for Safety Action Meetings (SAMs) across the state. SAMs are local, interagency meetings that aim to assist victims at serious threat of injury or death due to domestic and family violence.

We also administer the social support services component of the Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS), a national scheme of integrated legal and social support for families affected by domestic and family violence. WDVCASs provide social support for women, and Relationships Australia NSW provides social support for men. In 2021–2022, FASS social support workers assisted 1,716 clients.

Fact file
Increase in the number of service events provided to clients in 2021–2022 compared to the previous year 12.0%
WDVCAS clients identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people14.9%
WDVCAS clients identified as being from a culturally diverse background 19.1%
WDVCAS clients identified as having a disability10.5%


This year, we administered $32,882,502 in grant funding to WDVCASs. For further details regarding this funding, see Appendix 3.

Number of women supported by Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services


Enhanced services for women experiencing domestic and family violence

In June 2022, the NSW Government announced additional funding for WDVCASs, including $6.79 million per year for case management and $3.24 million for a hearing support pilot in 14 locations.

The new funding is part of a $69.6 million package to support women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, including funding to expand and enhance the Safer Pathway Program. The program assists victim-survivors to access the services they need to escape violence and rebuild their lives.

Taken together, this represents the largest increase in funding and service scope since Safer Pathway commenced in 2014. The case management funding will significantly enhance WDVCASs ability to provide effective, longer-term support to clients with complex needs or those at serious risk of injury or death, and the hearing support pilot will allow WDVCASs to support clients for the duration of their court matters.

New client management system for WDVCASs

The NSW Government also announced an investment of $3.7 million to develop an online client management system for WDVCASs in June 2022. The new, purpose-built client data system will replace multiple current inefficient systems and processes.
An independent review in 2021 found that a new system will achieve a 50–80% reduction in time spent on administration tasks for WDVCASs, leaving more time for the services to work directly with clients. The new system will also improve the quality, consistency and security of client data.

Uniting our staff

In June 2022, a face-to-face forum was held for workers from WDVCASs from across the state for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Around 180 workers from across NSW gathered in Sydney to hear informative and thought-provoking presentations from key partners and domestic and family violence colleagues including Domestic Violence NSW, NSW Health and the Domestic Violence Death Review Team. Workers were fortunate to hear two keynote addresses from NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb and Deputy Chief Magistrate Sharon Freund.

The forum followed two years of unprecedented challenges, including the 2019–2020 summer bushfires, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and multiple flood emergencies. It was fittingly themed around reconnection and resilience and provided staff the opportunity to connect in person with friends and colleagues from across the state.

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will support WDVCASs to start delivering case management to women experiencing domestic and family violence across the state who have complex needs and/or are at serious threat of injury or death.
  • We will facilitate a pilot of hearing support for women experiencing domestic and family violence across 14 WDVCAS, and a co-location pilot with the NSW Police Force in five WDVCAS.
  • We will continue to help FASS expand to all circuit court locations across NSW.