Community Legal Services Program Reform Project

Community Legal Services Program Reform Project

Under the Community Legal Service Program (CLSP), Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) administers funding to 43 centres, Djirra, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

In 2017 we initiated a review of the CLSP (phase one of the CLSP Reform Project) to ensure it aligned 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 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.

Phase one

In phase one, VLA:

The 46 agreed actions for change identified in the final report from phase one focused on developing a streamlined, transparent and accountable funding framework and legal assistance services that met 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 new 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 Community Legal Services Program Reform Project – Phase One final report (pdf, 1.07 MB) or the accessible Word version (638.4 KB)

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

In phase two, we have developed a new simplified funding agreement (the ‘service agreement’) and associated documents from 1 July 2020 to coincide with the start of the new National Legal Assistance Partnership.

During this phase, we worked closely with CLCs and the Federation. The development of the new Service Agreement and policies and processes was supported by a Quality and Risk Management – policy discussion paper August 2019 (docx, 355.56 KB) that informed discussions and input from partners including the Federation, individual CLCs, 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). 

We also thank CLCs and the Federation for participating in a number of working groups and feedback processes throughout 2019–20 to support the development of the new Service Agreement and associated documents.

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. The third phase of CLSP Reform (2020–21 and 2021–22 financial years) will focus on embedding the new Service Agreement and associated documents, support for implementation, and capacity-building. During this time, we will be working with the Federation to look at ways to support capacity building in the sector. We will also monitor implementation of phase two reforms to confirm they have led to the outcomes sought, and contributed to positive changes for CLCs, VLA and the communities we serve.

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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