Queensland community legal centres (CLCs) such as LawRight (formerly QPILCH) face significant challenges:
- Queensland is Australia's second largest but most diverse state
- there is an increasing population, particularly in regional areas
- the Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA; ABS 2006b) shows that Queensland has some remote areas that are among the most disadvantaged areas in Australia
- Queensland has the second highest rate of unemployment in Australia, and
- there is an increasing gap between rich and poor.
We also operate in a difficult fiscal climate:
- From July 2017, the Commonwealth Government has reduced funding for Queensland CLCs by $1.8m.
- State Government funding capacity is reducing following tougher economic times.
- Queensland has a smaller philanthropic sector.
- The reduction in government funding is coupled with greater competition for government and philanthrophic grants.
CLCs play a critical role not only in the justice system but also in achieving social outcomes such as improved health care, reduction in homelessness and debt and a reduction in costs in other sectors. They help more than 50,000 Queenslanders each year and are often the last resort for many people, playing a vital role as a safety net for people who fall through the main institutions of justice.
In this landscape, LawRight (formerly QPILCH) has been instrumental in using new approaches, such as partnerships, to maximising the available funds, providing services when and where clients need them (including at social services and hospitals) and developing best practice models so they can have the greatest impact. LawRight (formerly QPILCH) has been a leader in developing new and low cost solutions for clients such as the Self Representation Service, the Legal Health Check and LegalPod. We have also been a leading voice for developing a collaborative framework to respond more effectively to the ever growing demands for legal services in a context of diminishing resources.
We know that the social compact is weakened if public services are reduced, and for that reason have strongly advocated for funding for effective and low cost community legal and social services to be increased.
Yet in this landscape, obtaining necessary funding to maintain cost-effective existing levels of service and continue to be a dynamic, relevant and responsive organisation is increasingly difficult and challenging.