Community Legal Centres

(Private Members' Statements, 14 November 2019, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I put on record the immense value of Community Legal Centres for the Sydney electorate and my constituents. All members of Parliament rely on these independent community organisations for constituents to get legal help, particularly vulnerable people and communities that are disadvantaged and marginalised and would not otherwise be able to get access to justice. The Sydney electorate is well served by the Inner City Legal Centre and Redfern Legal Centre. I am proud to work closely with these two organisations in their efforts to make sure that everyone has access to legal help, no matter their background, abilities or resources.

The Inner City Legal Centre is the main legal centre for the Sydney electorate and my office refers many people to it who need legal information and help. Along with generalist matters, it helps with employment and family law and is the New South Wales specialist for the LGBTIQ legal service. It recognises groups with quite specific needs through the transgender legal service and sex worker legal service. I am supporting their fundraising campaign to maintain the Safe Relationships Project, which provides court support for people who are gay, lesbianĀ or bisexual, people who are transgender and people who are inter-sex who are experiencing or escaping an abusive relationship.

Together with the Marrickville and Kingsford centres, the Inner City and Redfern legal centres are jointly running a new statewide service for migrant workers. This is a clear example of how legal centres identify and meet unmet needs. The Redfern Legal Centre provides help for health, employment, consumer and financial matters, domestic violence, policing and discrimination and has a specialist service for students, which is increasingly needed in response to unfair treatment of international students. Redfern's tenancy and advocacy service is a valuable source of advice and representation to which my office regularly refers constituents, particularly tenants who may not have the skills or capacity to represent themselves in the tribunal. I was very pleased to launch the Redfern Legal Centre's recently updated resourceThe Repair Kit, which was originally published with funds from Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP Salary Trust. The centre's workshop with tenants in Woolloomooloo who were concerned about getting repairs done was a great way to efficiently get information and advice to a group of people.

Community Legal Centres are a vital source of support, advice and advocacy on public interest legal matters that affect large numbers of people. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre tackles matters of broad public importance that affect the whole community. It does a great job training and educating citizens and community groups to challenge injustice. I am especially appreciative of their Homeless Persons' Legal Service. It takes legal help to very vulnerable people living on the street and in refuges and shelters. The Environment Defenders Office provides expert information, resources, advice and test cases in public interest environment law, helping to protect communities against powerful vested interests. Its work with the Millers Point community on heritage protection for the Sirius building is a good example.

While they deal largely with Commonwealth matters, I acknowledge the important role of other Community Legal Centres based in the inner city for people across New South Wales or even Australia, including for financial rights, welfare rights, human rights, HIV-AIDS, immigration, refugees, disability, prisoners, tenants, children, young people and seniors. The commitment from centre workers and board members to justice and a fair go is inspiring. I acknowledge their contribution to our communities. Volunteers and students learning the law help stretch the limited funding that Community Legal Centres rely upon. There is a well-developed network of Community Legal Centres across New South Wales that collaborate to cover many groups and individuals who would not otherwise get access to legal information, advice or advocacy. They provide valuable community resources and education, and they use their experience with vulnerable people to push for law and policy reform to improve justice and prevent discrimination and unfair treatment. I support the call from Community Legal Centres for adequate and secure funding so they can continue to provide their essential advice and hope that the Government will respond to my request for additional resources to enable this important work to continue.