Community legal sector to tap lived experiences of clients

  • Lotterywest and WA Government fund community legal services initiative
  • Lived experience project seeks input from disadvantaged people who have required legal help
  • Strategy aimed at making services more effective in meeting clients’ needs

Lotterywest and the Western Australian Government are funding a program to bolster community legal assistance services by drawing on the knowledge of people who use them.

The Lived Experience Legal Assistance Change Project will help reform services to better meet the needs of clients, amid rising demand in the community.

Peak organisation Community Legal WA (CLWA) will work to build the capacity of the legal assistance sector to engage people with lived experience of legal need in co-designing services.

The plan includes identifying and supporting a pool of such people, to give them a strong voice on relevant issues including policy and advocacy.

Their contributions will inform and shape reforms to services and systems, with the aim of improving social and legal outcomes for clients.

Lotterywest and the State Government have each provided the project $200,000 over three years.

CLWA represents and supports 26 community legal centres in Western Australia – independent, not-for-profit organisations which provide free or low-cost services to people experiencing disadvantage.

The organisation reports that in 2022-2023 community legal centres assisted more than 24,500 Western Australians. Of these, 63 per cent were female, 29 per cent had experienced family and domestic violence and 22 per cent had a disability or mental illness.

As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:

“People reaching out for community legal services are doing so with increasing urgency and a greater complexity of needs.

“By increasing access to effective services, these centres will be able to resolve people’s issues more quickly and provide appropriate supports.

“People with experience of these issues are well-placed to give critical guidance in achieving well-designed, trauma-informed legal assistance.”

As stated by, Community Legal WA Lived Experience Engagement Coordinator Marisha Gerovich:

“People experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage have told us they can find accessing lawyers and the justice system to be overwhelming and traumatic.

“They also told us when they are able to access high quality legal help it can be life-changing.

“Providing people with a safe opportunity to be heard and have their experiences valued not only provides key learnings to improve services for everyone, it can also help individuals feel empowered and rebuild trust.”

As stated by Community Legal WA CEO Chelsea McKinney:

“Getting legal help in time can stop problems getting worse – keeping people in work, families in their homes and kids safe.

“This groundbreaking project funded by the State Government and Lotterywest will develop a pool of people with lived experience, who are empowered to work together with community legal centres to improve services and policy.”

/Public Release. View in full here.