The Community Legal Service movement started in the 1970’s in response to a significant lack of access to legal services for a broad section of the community. Focused on social justice and equality they assist marginalised and disadvantaged members of the community. Their relationship to the community they service and the ability to respond to their needs is what characterises Community Legal Centres and sets them apart from legal aid.
Our legal service has been operating since 1986 and was the first Community Legal Service established outside the Melbourne Metropolitan area. The service was established by Geelong residents, and is managed by a voluntary committee of management. Originally known as Geelong Community Legal Services (GCLS), our name was changed to Barwon Community Legal Service in 2007 to better identify the region from which our clients are drawn. The Service is mostly Government funded and receives monies from the State Department of Justice and Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department.
The service started with 1 lawyer and a part-time administration worker. Today BCLS is a thriving generalist Community Legal Centre employing 7 lawyers and six administration staff in a diverse and supportive professional environment. As well as providing professional services and education to the local community, our staff are also involved in State and National networks which exert coordinated influence to achieve broad law reform which positively impacts our local community.
The efforts of our staff are supported by over 30 volunteers drawn from the local legal profession and students from Deakin University law school.
2011 Marks the 25th Anniversary year of BCLS as a funded community legal service, to celebrate we will host a birthday bash for volunteers, friends and workers who have contributed to our service.