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)
  • reduced legal capability (e.g. 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, 5MB) 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
  • 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 (Access to Justice Arrangements – Inquiry Report, 2014 (PDF, 6.3MB))

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
  • proceed through court and tribunal proceedings more efficiently
  • decrease domestic violence and child abuse.

Queensland’s service system

The network of legal assistance support available to vulnerable and disadvantaged Queenslanders is known as the ‘service system’.

Queensland’s service system includes community organisations that deliver local and state-wide services. These services are complemented by:

Funding the service system

Under the legal assistance services program, we allocate Queensland and Australian government funding for the delivery of legal assistance services.

Australian Government funding is allocated to individual community organisations under the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP), which expires on 30 June 2025.

Find out more about our legal assistance services collaboration.

Funding over 2020–25

The application phase for allocating Queensland and Commonwealth service delivery funding over 2020–25 opened on 23 October 2019 and closed on 4 December 2019.

In May 2020, the Attorney-General announced the outcomes of the tender process to allocate Queensland and Australian legal assistance service delivery funding over 2020-25.

Find out more about our investment in legal assistance services.

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 community legal centres (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, tenancy, immigration and employment) or provide legal assistance for particular groups of people (e.g. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, children and young people, women, refugees, the homeless and prisoners).

Community Legal Centres Queensland (CLCQ) is the peak association for CLCs in Queensland. They provide support and advocacy to the 33 independent, community-led CLCs operating in Queensland and offer information about how and where to access legal assistance services.

Evidence and analysis of legal need

In March 2016, the Department of Justice and Attorney-General (DJAG) engaged CLCQ to deliver evidence and analysis of legal need. We allocated project funding to CLCQ to develop a guide that summarised evidence of legal need in Queensland.

In March 2019, we allocated further project funding to CLCQ to update the evidence and analysis of legal need guide. The guide incorporates data from the 2016 census, integration of legislative changes and current analysis of met and unmet legal need.

The latest version also looks at broader data sources to better inform the evidence for legal need in Queensland and provides a deeper contextual analysis to show how this data is relevant to individual organisations.

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 higher level to help implement systemic change. For example, they deliver community legal education and law reform projects with the aim of building community capacity.

Legal Aid Queensland

Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) is a statutory authority that provides legal information, advice, and representation to financially disadvantaged Queenslanders. It specialises in criminal, family, and civil law.

LAQ’s information and advice services are free to all Queenslanders. To be eligible for legal representation in court, you must meet LAQ’s means and merit test guidelines.

You can access LAQ services:

  • in person at their offices in Brisbane and 13 regional locations
  • through their state-wide telephone service
  • through 1 of over 300 private law firms funded by LAQ’s grants program
  • through their outreach advice services to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS)

ATSILS (Qld) is a community-based organisation that works together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as key government and non-government stakeholders, to manage the delivery of services in a professional, culturally competent and community-sensitive manner.

The key area of service delivery include:

  • criminal law representation and advice
  • family law representation and advice
  • civil law representation and advice
  • the Throughcare Program to help prisoners and youth detainees address offending behaviour
  • law reform and community legal education
  • coronial and public sector monitoring
  • 24-hour assistance at police stations.

Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service (QIFVLS)

QIFVLS delivers culturally appropriate legal services, welfare and support, advocacy and community education to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are victims of domestic violence, family violence and/or sexual assault.

Our current investment

A total of $119.452 million of Queensland and Australian government funding was available to be allocated to community organisations over 2020–25.

$112.152 million of this funding was allocated through a procurement process that required applicants to:

To find out how much funding each community organisation has received, read our investment in legal assistance services 2020–25.

Under the NLAP, responsibility for the administration of Australian Government funding to ATSILS transferred to states and territories from 1 July 2020. This will be the first time the ATSILS has been incorporated under the NLAP.

ATSILS (Qld) will receive approximately $123.6 million of Australian Government funding over 2020–25.