Snapshot of NNWCLS Inc
The North and North West Community Legal Service Inc was officially opened by Rt Hon Ian Sinclair in Armidale on 22 April 1996.
The Service began in April 1993 when Jennifer Crew began the Armidale Community Legal Service run solely by volunteer solicitors from Armidale.
In 1995 Jennifer Crew, Ted Wright and Rhonda Weinand began research and consultation with the community to establish the need for a funded Community Legal Centre to service the whole New England and North West regions of NSW. The resulting submission to the Commonwealth Government was successful and the North and North West Community Legal Service Inc was created.
In April 2002 the Service became the auspice for the Northern Regional Tenant Resource Service (NRTRS) and in October 2002 became the auspice for the New England and Western Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (NEWTAAS). The sudden growth in the Service required it to relocate from shared accommodation in Armidale Neighbourhood Centre to its own premises in the Minto Building.
It also opened offices in Dubbo and Broken Hill for the tenancy service, both co-located with the Community Legal Centres in those cities.
From July 2004 to September 2005, the NNWCLS took on the temporary auspice of the Western Aboriginal Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service, with offices in Dubbo, Broken Hill and Bourke. In April 2005, the NNWCLS auspice the Community Cottage.
In September 2005, the Western Aboriginal TAAS was handed over to an Aboriginal organization, Murdi Paaki Region Enterprise to auspice, and in January 2006, the Northern Regional Tenant Resources Service self-incorporated to become an independent Service.
In May 2007, the North and North West Community Legal Service re-located to new premises in a more central position in the Armidale CBD and close to the Court House. (NEWTAAS is still located at Minto Building, Rusden Street, Armidale).
In March 2013, the service was officially recognised under the National Accreditation Scheme as providing Community Legal Services in conformity with the requirements of the NACLC Accreditation Criteria for Community Legal Centres and the NACLC Certification Rules.
Geography and Demographics of Our Regions
The North and North West Community Legal Service seeks to be a regional based legal service rather than town-based one. In order to do this, our solicitors travel considerable distances on a regular basis including regular ‘circuits’ to Tamworth, Narrabri, Gunnedah, Moree, Inverell, Walcha and Glen Innes. Our face-to-face client contact is supplemented by free-call numbers that are accessible to all people within the regions we cover.
The region we service is extremely diverse, although all are rural centres with agriculture generally comprising the major industry. In the New England, education (tertiary and secondary), beef cattle and wool growing predominate whereas the more north-western regions are cotton and wheat growing areas.
While the coastal regions are experiencing a boom in population growth the regions west of the dividing range have static or declining populations. Indigenous Australians comprise a much higher percentage of our population than the state average. For example in the New England and North West regions the 2011 Census, provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, shows people of Aboriginal descent comprise 9% of the population as against the state average of 2.5% with about 9.2% of the State’s Aboriginal population living in this region. The service area has a lower than average population of people from language backgrounds other than English with 0.7% speaking a language other than English at home compared to the State average 8.2%.
In terms of age, the population is slightly older than the State average with 30.3% being over 55 (State average 26.4%).
Historically the regions have recorded higher unemployment rates than State or National averages.
Similarly the regions experience a much lower median income level than both State or National figures indicate. The median weekly income for a single person is 17% below the national figure on average and the median weekly income for a household is 27% below the national figure.
The percentage of one-parent families in the region is 17.3%.
The overall picture portrayed by the 2011 census indicates the region has lower levels of income, higher levels of unemployment, and higher levels of socio-economic and other forms of disadvantage than the national average. Our region is notable for its large indigenous population, below average educational participation and low average incomes.
Our Purpose Statement reads that we strive to support those who have least access and the least power to help themselves. We indicate to be responsive to the needs of our community. With the above statistics in mind, we know that our Service in the North & North West region of New South Wales is well placed. We understand that these statistics would suggest the need for our Service in this area. Because of this, we continue our extensive outreach and look to further it in future Strategic Planning. We feel passionate about assisting those in most need within our Community.
What does the Service do?
The Service provides free legal advice, assistance and support to people in the North and North West region of New South Wales who have least access to the Legal system and the least power to help themselves.
The Community Legal Service also provides an outreach service. Tamworth is visited twice monthly (Tuesdays), Narrabri, Gunnedah and Wee Waa are on a monthly circuit, as are Glen Innes, Inverell, Walcha and Moree. Tenterfield is on a bi-monthly basis. We have an impressive coverage of 98,000 sq kms covering 12% of the state of New South Wales. Our solicitors travel up to 26,000 kms a year in order to deliver this service to the people in the more remote areas of New South Wales.
We also conduct Community Legal Education sessions in the North and North West Region, speaking on various subjects such as Family Law, the importance of having a will, debt and credit problems and so on. The aim is to raise people’s awareness of their legal rights and responsibilities and help to prevent issues arising in the future.