CLCs are independent, non-profit, community‐based organisations that provide free and accessible legal and related services to disadvantaged members of the community, and to people with special needs or who are for other reasons vulnerable and at risk.
There are around 200 CLCs nationally, in metropolitan, regional, rural and remote locations. In 2014/15, the top 3 specialist areas or client groups for CLCs were
- domestic/family violence
- homelessness and,
- family law.
CLCs form part of the broader legal assistance sector. There are four publicly funded legal assistance providers in Australia—CLCs, Legal Aid Commissions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services.
The CLC sector includes generalist CLCs that provide legal assistance in a wide range of areas of law for people in their local communities, including in relation to family law and family violence, credit and debt, consumer law, social security, migration, tenancy, discrimination, employment and child protection.
There are also specialist CLCs which provide services to a particular target group and/or in a particular specialist area of law. For example, there are specialist services for women, tenants, consumer and credit, welfare rights, refugees, older persons, children and youth, and people with disability, among others.
Community legal centres provide legal advice, legal information and referrals and casework. CLCs also utilise a range of early intervention and preventative strategies such as community legal education and community development, individual skill building, systemic advocacy and law and policy reform activities. More broadly, CLCs also play a key role in community engagement, developing and facilitating partnerships between legal assistance providers and legal and non‐legal services, and developing and maintaining referral networks and protocols.