Community Legal Services Program Reform Project

Community Legal Services Program Reform Project

Under our Community Legal Service Program (CLSP), Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) administers funding to 42 of the 52 Victorian community legal centres (CLCs). The funding framework has not been substantially changed since its inception in 1996 and can be improved to meet the contemporary needs of CLCs and funders in a different legal assistance and funding environment.

CLSP Reform Project

In 2017 we initiated a review of the CLSP (Phase one of the CLSP Reform Project) to ensure it aligns with current expectations regarding the planning and delivery of legal services and accountability for expenditure of public money. In working with CLCs, it became clear a more open funding program that is easier to navigate and better supports VLA to fulfil its obligations as a funder, was required.

The Community Legal Services Program Reform Project aims to deliver a more streamlined, transparent and accountable framework for funding for community legal centres.

This significant program of change seeks to:

  • provide greater transparency and certainty around funding decisions
  • reduce the administrative burden on CLCs by making planning and reporting easier
  • ensure self-determination of Aboriginal legal services is respected in any changes
  • prioritise an evidence-based approach to meeting legal need   
  • foster a focus on monitoring and reporting on outcomes
  • foster a focus on quality performance standards and processes
  • integrate a second funding stream for specific purpose and short-term projects
  • use technology to share information and resources with CLCs.

The project is being delivered in three phases.

We are committed to working closely with CLCs to ensure the framework promotes targeted, high-quality services that better meet the need of our clients and communities. In doing so, we will continue to promote CLC diversity, independence and the mix of services they provide.

Phase one

Work on phase one of the project is now complete. Key deliverables of this phase included:

The 46 agreed actions for change identified in the final report from Phase one will help ensure we develop a streamlined, transparent and accountable funding framework and legal assistance services that meet the expectations set out in both the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPA) and the Victorian Access to Justice Review

Significant contributions from stakeholders in the legal assistance sector were crucial to the work undertaken in phase one. Their feedback has helped ensure that the framework reflects the range of experiences and needs across CLCs, Victoria Legal Aid, other funders and government agencies.

Download the phase one final report

Download the CLSP Reform project consolidated table of actions (docx, 299.13 KB) to see a quick reference of all actions in a single table. The full report provides essential context for these actions.

Phase two

Phase two of the project is now underway and will conclude with the new framework to coincide with the start of the new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPALAS).  During this phase, we will again be working closely with CLCs to develop a new service agreement, work plan and report templates and the policies and processes to support them.

Implementation in Phase two will occur in two parts. Consultations in Part A (2018–19 financial year) will result in some ‘quick win’ variations to the current agreement to take effect on 1 July 2019. The current agreement, as varied, will be rolled over for another year. In Part A we will also work with CLCs to develop new templates for planning and reporting. In Part B (2019–20 financial year), consultations will be held across the sector in a series of sub-working groups to help us develop the wider changes. Drawing on the experience and expertise in the sector will help make sure we get the detail right and build on the great work already being done by CLCs, culminating in the roll-out of a new service agreement in July 2020.

Quality and Risk Management – policy discussion paper August 2019

Our objective is to ensure sector-wide quality assurance, risk management and good governance. This paper provides context and proposals to inform discussions and input from partners including the Federation of Community Legal Centres (the federation), individual community legal centres, Djirra and Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS), relevant parts of Victoria Legal Aid, and other key stakeholders, including the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS). 

Consistent with our commitment to streamline funding processes, it’s proposed that these improvements will complement and not duplicate existing quality and risk management frameworks. 

This document has been prepared based on the best available information at the time and we are conscious that we are in the midst of NPA negotiations. Circumstances may occur which justify a reconsideration of VLA’s position on matters addressed in the paper. In such an event, VLA will remain closely engaged with the sector and the Quality and Risk Management Working Group (QRMWG) in particular. 

Download the Quality and Risk Management – policy discussion paper August 2019 (docx, 355.56 KB).

Phase three

This is an ambitious program of change. We acknowledge that it will take time for changes to be fully integrated into work practices. Phase Three will allow two years (2020–21 and 2021–22 financial years) for VLA’s CLC Funding and Development Program to support centres to adapt to new processes and meet the new requirements.  

More information

For more information about the project, email

We will keep the sector informed of implementation progress via regular updates and will provide centres with good notice of impending change before it happens.


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