Legal assistance services

Legal assistance services are free or low-cost legal services that are provided to people who can’t engage their own lawyer due to either:

  • a low income, including a temporarily reduced income, and/or
  • reduced legal capability, for example due to intellectual disability or mental illness.

Impacts of legal issues

Vulnerable people in our community often have more legal issues than other community members, but are less equipped to deal with them.

According to the Legal Australia-wide survey 2012 (PDF) in 57% of cases legal issues have a severe or moderate impact on the lives of vulnerable people, including their physical and mental health, employment and housing.

Many people also experience multiple legal issues at the same time, including those of a civil, family and/or criminal nature.

Research indicates that if civil legal needs are not addressed, they can escalate into more serious civil problems and—in some cases—lead to crime, as outlined in the Access to Justice Arrangements Productivity Commission Inquiry report (PDF).

We provide funding for legal assistance services to help address these needs. These services help clients to resolve legal matters earlier and with less expense, and proceed through court and tribunal proceedings more efficiently.

Queensland’s service system

The network of legal assistance support available to vulnerable and disadvantaged Queenslanders is known as Queensland’s legal assistance sector (the sector).

The sector is comprised of community legal centres (CLCs), Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS). These organisations deliver local and statewide services.

To find out more about these services, visit the relevant website:

Community organisations

Community organisations are not-for-profit societies or associations established for community service purposes. Most community organisations that deliver legal assistance services in Queensland are CLCs.

CLCs have been providing legal services in Australia for more than 40 years. CLCs and community organisations are different from other legal service providers in a number of ways:

  • they are independently operating, not-for-profit organisations
  • they are community-based, focusing on the disadvantaged and those with special needs
  • they encourage community involvement
  • they are experts in identifying potential issues and formulating targeted responses to emerging community needs.

Generalist CLCs provide services on a range of legal issues to people living in a particular region or city.

Specialist CLCs offer expertise in certain areas of law—such as child support, mental health and disability, tenancy, immigration and employment—or provide legal assistance for particular groups of people—for example Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, children and young people, women, LGBTQIA+ communities, refugees, the homeless and prisoners.

Community Legal Centres Queensland (CLCQ) is the peak association for CLCs in Queensland. It provides support and advocacy to the 32 independent, community-led CLCs operating in Queensland and offer information about how and where to access legal assistance services.

Types of services

CLCs provide tailored and responsive solutions to clients’ needs by offering:

  • advice and referral
  • legal assistance and limited representation
  • community legal education
  • law and legal system reform activities.

As well as providing legal assistance services to individuals, CLCs also work at a community level to help implement systemic change. For example, they deliver community legal education and law reform projects with the aim of building community capacity.

Find more information about legal assistance services.

Funding the legal assistance sector

Under the Legal Assistance Services Program (LASP) we allocate Queensland and Australian government funding for the delivery of legal assistance services.

Australian Government funding is allocated to CLCs, LAQ and ATSILS under the National Legal Assistance Partnership 2020–25 (the NLAP), which expires on 30 June 2025.

Find out more about our legal assistance services collaboration and the allocation of Queensland and Australian government funding for the legal assistance sector.

Independent review of the NLAP

The NLAP is subject to an independent review (clauses 81 and 82) which should, at a minimum, consider:

  • progress towards achieving the overall objective and outcomes of the NLAP
  • the appropriateness of the NLAP in achieving its objective and outcomes and delivering its outputs, and
  • whether mainstream, specialist and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific legal assistance services funded under the NLAP have been delivered in an effective, efficient and appropriate manner.

The Terms of reference for the independent review of the NLAP were developed in consultation with the states, territories, and representatives of the legal assistance sector, and were agreed to by all Attorneys-General.

In May 2023 the Commonwealth Attorney-General appointed Dr Warren Mundy (the Reviewer) to lead the NLAP review. On 18 August 2023 the Reviewer released an Issues paper and sought written submissions from the legal assistance sector.

In October 2023, Legal Assistance Strategy and Funding (LASF) provided a thematic response to the issues paper. Read the LASF response to the review.