Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New guideline catches CLCs' law reform work

The NSW State Government has indicated that it will implement new guidelines for the State's 40 community legal centres – of which the Tenants' Union is one. The main thrust of the guidelines is about getting legal services to disadvantaged and vulnerable people – which is a big part of what we're all about.

But one of the proposed guidelines is a real worry. It says:

Funding [to CLCs] may not be used for lobbying activities, public campaigning and providing legal advice to activists and lobby groups.

It's a worry becauses CLCs engage in activities that may be said to answer each of these descriptions – and always for the benefit of our clients and the wider public interest. But the guildeline would restrict against it.

For example, the Tenants' Union engages in discussions with members of the State Government, other Members of State Parliament, government officers and industry stakeholders on matters affecting tenants, marginal renters and residents of residential parks. We do so with the purpose of reforming tenancy law and policy for the benefit of our clients and constituents, and we understand from feedback from senior members and officers of the State Government that this assists in the development of good law, policy and practice. But isn't this 'lobbying'?

We also take our proposals for policy and law reform into public forums. A recent example is our work drawing public attention to the need for boarding house sector reform – reform that the O'Farrell Government has enacted and is now in the process of implementing. But isn't this 'public campaigning'?

Finally, in the course of responding to requests from tenants for advice, we from time to time respond to requests from tenants who identify themselves as 'activists'. In all events our advice is objective and directed to resolving the tenant's present problems effectively, efficiently and within the law. Sometimes it is to discourage unlawful activities, or inefficient or ineffective legal proceedings. But isn't this still 'providing legal advice to activists'?

Each of these types of activities is a valuable service to our clients and constituents, to the State Government and to the wider community. But the guideline proscribing 'lobbying activities, public campaigning and providing legal advice to activists' will cause us to reconsider undertaking these activities.

This would cause very substantial practical problems for us: for example, at what point does the making of a submission on law reform become lobbying or campaign, and how do we weed out 'activists' from all the tenants who seek our legal advice? It would also cause a substantial detriment to our clients and constitutents, by reducing the representation of their interests in policy and law reform processes, and to the State Government and the community generally.

If you're worried too, please let the Premier, the Attorney-General, and your local MP know about it.


  1. P A R I A H still shock ...April 14, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Yahoo, then maybe I won't get evicted next time by a Community Housing provider on no grounds and into Primary Homelessness. Yeah it's hard to find a lawyer in this town ... I hope the AG enjoys my letter outlining the situation where I was forced to represent as a lay person against a NSW Barrister in the CTTT against my OWN support workers all paid, covered and managed by the Government against a lawful citizen. I WAS ASHAMED TO BE AN AUSTRALIAN THAT DAY! SHAME SHAME SHAME.

    Nc or Cm don't pull this blog - Do better. Learn from what happened to me. It was shameful and SO disappointing. :-(

  2. Just saw the word activist. Seriously, if the tenants could get some actual support we wouldn't need to probably be seen as PSEUDO activists. When you're facing constructive eviction how would anyone you know react?
    If the CLC. TU wants to have incongruous grey areas then demarcate and independently brand BOTH as legitimate. This blog is then moot and you're all happy.

    Lets start with a direct line for help with all the red tape and SOVEREIGN policies of ngo and govt housing providers being put into a STRATA STYLE CONCRETE FORMAT so you don't have to wade through 50 websites of MOVEABLE TEXT to know what your rights are. NO WONDER WE NEED DIRECT TENANCY ASSISTANCE. And then they all start acting within the social services legislations. No wonder we don't have time to look for a job. It is a job to be treated fairly. When you're unwell or destitute it becomes insurmountable. The stance is valid. Sorry naCLCs.

  3. Laws were made by man to enforce the lores, and were necessary to ensure the survival of the clan. But laws are of little use unless they can be enforced. football banning order


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