Legislative Council: Thursday, June 16, 2022


Community Legal Centres

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:15): My question is to the Attorney-General: will the Attorney-General inform the council about the important work of South Australian community legal centres?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:15): I certainly can. I thank the honourable member for his question and I'm proud to say that South Australia is home to many extraordinary community legal centres, whose staff work tirelessly to provide high quality, free and accessible legal advice to South Australians who are often going through a difficult time.

It was my pleasure, on a recent visit to Mount Gambier for country cabinet, to be able to visit the Limestone Coast Community Justice Centre to learn more about the important work they are doing to support the Limestone Coast region. I talked about this in an answer, I think yesterday, that it was a remarkably good opportunity for ministers to visit the Limestone Coast last week. I want to quickly pay tribute to the local leadership in that area.

I talked about councils and mayors who met with ministers while we were there, but also members of this parliament—like the member for Mount Gambier, Troy Bell, and the member for MacKillop, Nick McBride—who joined in forums and represented their communities extraordinarily well in putting forward ideas to the government. I think it is a great credit to those two local members in the South-East, regardless of being Independents or Liberal Party or Labor Party members, that we are able to all work together to support an area of the state that supports our state economy so well.

As I said, it was a remarkable opportunity in Mount Gambier, not just to hear directly from people in Mount Gambier but also to visit services in various portfolio areas and various companies that play a part in that community. The Limestone Coast Community Justice Centre is certainly one of those areas. The Limestone Coast Community Justice Centre recently completed a survey of 143 people from its current client base and the feedback was, not surprisingly, overwhelmingly positive.

Ninety-three per cent of clients of the Limestone Coast Community Justice Centre agreed or strongly agreed that the community justice centre had helped them to understand how to deal with their legal problem and that they knew where to get legal help in the future if they needed it. Also, 98 per cent of clients surveyed indicated that of those who had personal cultural needs they strongly agreed that the service met those needs.

I find it particularly encouraging that the centres are accessible to Aboriginal people and groups of people who often face cultural barriers in obtaining legal representation, legal services and interactions with the justice system. The survey also reported positively that 90 per cent of clients surveyed would recommend community justice centres to others. It is a great tribute to how they go about their business and the service they provide that so many people who have used it had such a positive experience that they would recommend it to others.

It's not just in the South-East, with the Limestone Coast Community Justice Centre, but right around South Australia that they provide these invaluable services. Community legal centres have been operating right across Australia for over 40 years and continue to advocate for a rights-based approach and equitable access to the justice system, which often presents significant barriers for many members of the community.

They offer services from qualified solicitors, legal advisers and support staff, and extend often to community education and legal advice across areas such as family law, minor criminal matters, civil law, as well as other areas of law, as well as support with casework, referrals and legal representation. Community Justice Services SA is the peak body for community justice centres in South Australia and oversees many services, both across metropolitan and rural South Australia.

Some of the services this body oversees include the Northern Community Legal Service; WestSide Lawyers, which service the west, Mid North and the outback; Uniting Communities Law Centre for the CBD, inner eastern and Adelaide Hills region; and in the south, South-East and Riverland, the Southern Community Justice Centre, the Limestone Coast Community Justice Centre and the Riverland Community Justice Centre are just some of those available to members of the community.

I wish to thank particularly the Limestone Coast Community Justice Centre for hosting me last week, and I look forward to visiting other community justice centres around South Australia over the weeks and months to come.