Sunday, 25th of March, 2018

Community Legal Services


Community legal centres (CLCs) provide free advice to help people sort out their legal problems, and are often a useful first contact point for people with a legal difficulty. CLCs not only give legal advice, but also work to change laws when they are unfair or unjust, and undertake community education to help people in the community understand their legal rights and responsibilities.

There are six CLCs in Tasmania. Of these, three provide a generalist service and are regionally located in Hobart, Launceston and Devonport, whilst the other three are smaller specialist services located in Hobart but with statewide coverage. They are a part of a network of over 160 CLCs, which operate throughout Australia.

The Tasmanian CLCs are funded solely by the Commonwealth Government, although the Tasmanian Government may provide some non-recurrent project funding from time to time. CLCs are ‘non-government organisations’, managed on a voluntary basis by locally-based committees annually elected from the agencies’ membership. They operate independently of the government sector.

General Assistance & Casework

CLCs offer free advice services, with some doing so in evenings as well as daytime. Some of the centres do not require appointments for their sessions, but it is always advisable to telephone first.

CLCs have developed a mode of operation which is quite distinct from Legal Aid Commissions on the one hand and the private legal profession on the other. CLCs have a wider conception of what is involved in legal assistance, and are conscious, in delivering their services, of the socio-economic dimensions of many legal problems, as well as the fact that it may often be preferable to pursue non-legal remedies to such problems. This normally means that both the non-legal and legal aspects of the client’s problem can be dealt with.

Clients are encouraged to work through a problem so they can better understand its wider circumstances, and reach a solution themselves if possible. For many CLC services there is no means test applied, and there is generally no contribution required.

Where necessary, a client will be referred to the Legal Aid Commission Tasmania (if eligible) or a private lawyer. In some cases, follow-up work is done by lawyers employed by the CLCs.

Community Legal Education

Although advice work is the basis of their operations, CLCs also direct a great deal of their resources to community legal education. This may take a variety of forms: brochures and other printed material (like this Handbook), videos, provision of speakers, dissemination of information via the internet or through websites, etc. CLCs should be contacted direct if a group would like a speaker to talk on a specific area of the law, or on the legal system generally.

All CLCs produce and/or carry a wide range of printed material on different areas of the law, including a series of brochures in the ‘Legal Information and Referral’ series, jointly produced by Tasmanian CLCs, the LACT and the Law Society.

The Hobart Community Legal Service produces this Handbook and other educational materials, including videos dealing with aspects of self-representation, and a website which provides up-to-date information on CLC services and contact points.

Law Reform & Advocacy

CLCs also have a philosophy that many of the problems faced by their clients are the result of unjust laws or unjust administration of the law, and that it is not enough to simply deal with these problems at the level of the individual.

CLCs have therefore taken up general issues of concern about the law in the community such as the lack of legal protection for consumers and residential tenants, anti-discrimination provisions, the rights of and protection for children and young people, and conditions in the state’s prisons.  The aim is to change the law or the way it is administered so that the problems generated by such injustices will be overcome.

The role of centres may take such forms as assisting community organisations in campaigns, participating in Parliamentary inquiries, writing submissions, canvassing specific amendments to legislation, lobbying Ministers, and so forth.  CLCs may also combine with other CLCs within a national network of action in pursuit of such legislative reforms.

Hobart Community Legal Service

This service conducts an evening advice service staffed by volunteer lawyers and community workers providing legal advice and referral sessions on Monday and Wednesday evenings between 6.00pm and 7.30pm.

The Service is open each weekday from 9.00am to 5.00pm, when its Child Support Solicitor provides assistance to parents who have the primary daily care and responsibility of children ('carer' parents), with child support or maintenance problems, and its Welfare Rights Advocate assists people in disputes with Centrelink over pension, benefit and allowance payments or eligibility.

The Service also provides advice and assistance on consumer credit and debt matters. It is active in the provision of community legal education and law reform campaigning and advocacy.

Hobart Community Legal Service also operates Sorrell and a Bridgewater Office. The Bridgewater Office provides a general legal advice and referral service to residents in the Bridgewater and Gagebrook areas. That Office is open weekdays from 9.30am to 1.30pm and at other times by appointment. The Office's solicitor makes regular visits to prison facilities, to provide general advice and assistance to prisoners.

Launceston Community Legal Centre

In addition to general legal advice and referral, this service also provides specialist legal services in Immigration, Welfare Rights, Disability Discrimination and Employment Law.  The last two services are state-wide. The Centre provides counselling and support services for Victims of Crime.

The service runs outreach services, giving general legal advice and assistance, in Scottsdale, Deloraine, Ravenswood, Rocherlea and Mowbray. It conducts workshops on legal issues as requested and join with others to conduct law reform campaigns.

North-West Community Legal Centre

This centre has a lawyer who gives advice about a range of legal matters, and provides a limited casework role. Consultations are by appointment, which may be made during office hours.

Centre staff are also available to arrange talks to groups on a number of legal issues.

Your Nearest CLC

CLCs operating in Tasmania offer a wide range of services, including free and confidential legal advice and referral.

The Hobart Community Legal Service, Launceston Community Legal Centre and North-West Community Legal Centre each offer a general legal service within their respective regions of the state.  The other three CLCs listed below offer statewide specialist legal services.

Environmental Defenders Office

The EDO is Tasmania's public interest community legal centre for the environment. The Office assists the public with free legal advice, help with environmental law research, environmental law reform, referral to other groups or agencies and community legal education. See Community and Environment.

Tenants Union of Tasmania

The Tenants Union operates on a part-time basis, and provides a free advice and advocacy service to people experiencing tenancy problems.

Telephone advice is available Monday — Friday, 9.30am—4pm (1 300 652 641).

Appointments are available Tuesday—Thursday, 9.30am—12.00pm.

See Tenancy.

Women's Legal Service

This service offers advice and referrals to women throughout Tasmania, initially via a Freecall number (1 800 68 24 68).

The Freecall advice line is staffed on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 10.00am—12.30pm and 1.30—3.30pm, and on Wednesdays, 6.00—8.00pm, or leave a message at other times or if engaged.

Face-to-face appointments are offered in Hobart and Launceston, and are made via the Freecall number.

Information and education sessions may be provided around the state to service providers and groups of women.

Consumer Advice Services

There are services available to consumers through the Department of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading.

Often consumer issues tie in with other areas of the law, such as tenancy. Service Tasmania provides a list of websites, such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) website, where complaints can be made, or advice sought.


This does not constitute legal advice and the Tasmanian Law Handbook should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. No responsibility is accepted for any loss, damage or injury, financial or otherwise, suffered by any person acting or relying on information contained in it or omitted from it.