Queensland community legal centres provided assistance to more than 50,000 people during a year beset with myriad challenges like rising living costs, a spiralling housing crisis and natural disasters.
Community Legal Centres Queensland (CLCQ) and LawRight both this week released their 2021-22 annual reports which document the amount of pro bono work, time and effort given by members of the legal profession to provide access to justice to the state’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society.
CLCQ, which represents 34 independent community-led legal centres, in its report says it provided legal help to 59,973 people for 84,360 separate legal issues.
Of those people given free legal assistance – 73% were experiencing financial disadvantage, 49% domestic and family violence, 25% were living with a disability, 7% were homeless, 11% identifying as First Nations Australians and 9% from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
CLCQ President Rosslyn Monro and Director Hayley Grainger, in a joint report on the year, said community legal centres across the state continued to balance a slew of ongoing challenges during a time of increased adversity.
“The challenges of the last year with the rising costs of living, the housing crisis, natural disasters, the pandemic’s disruption to employment and the increasing costs of delivering services to the community have all had their impact on community legal centres and their ability to meet the legal needs in their communities,” they said.
“The increasing complexity of legal need means that Queenslanders need to access community legal centres more than ever.”
In its 2022 State Budget proposal, CLCQ called on the Queensland Government to commit to an $18 million annual increase to its investment to provide essential legal services to the vulnerable and those requiring assistance.
LawRight Joint Directors Sue Garlick and Linda Macpherson, in their report, said: “As we reflect on 2021/22, flexibility and strategy emerge as consistent themes.”
“Our external environment has demanded flexibility – COVID continued to impact planning, core operations, fundraising, events and the wellbeing of our staff and clients.
“Eastern Australian floods in February 2022, a federal election, turmoil in Afghanistan and an unexpected premises change – all needed to be navigated and responded to.
“The necessary balance to all this ‘pivoting’ has come from our deeply embedded and clear strategic plan.”
LawRight’s strategic plan includes:
- responding to legal needs by identifying and addressing the access to justice barriers faced by vulnerable communities
- connecting with clients by locating and embedding our legal services at courts, health and community organisations
- recruiting and resourcing the pro bono resources of the legal profession to respond to these clients
- focusing on improving the housing, income, health and legal rights of clients
- the maintenance of a strong and stable organisation in order to persist with the first four strategies.
“Throughout another year of, frankly, exhausting flexibility, reflecting on these strategies has provided the solution to our many quandaries,” Ms Garlick and Ms Macpherson said.
“Even with reduced pro bono hours, missed fundraising opportunities and the distractions of working from home arrangements, LawRight has (this year) deepened our impact.”
Read the CLCQ report.
Read the LawRight report.