Peninsula Community Legal Centre (formerly Frankston North Legal Service) has had its primary base in Frankston since it first began in 1977. The legal service began as a volunteer advice and referral service, but has grown over the past 30 years to become one of the major community organisations in the region, providing comprehensive legal services, the centre employs 28 professional staff and has a volunteer base of 120.
The centre was initiated by Frankston North residents who, due to a general lack of resources and limited public transport facilities, recognised the need for a local legal referral point. The legal centre continues to offer services from Frankston North.
In 1990 the legal centre established an outreach program. At the time, the Commonwealth increased funding to the centre, enabling the legal centre to employ a specific outreach solicitor. Local government continues to provide financial assistance.
In 1998, the centre moved to its current Head Office location at Nepean Highway, Frankston. The centre then expanded its catchment area to include Glen Eira, which was formerly serviced by Southern Communities Legal Service. In 2005, the Centre’s catchment further expanded to include the Casey and Cardinia municipalities.
Considering the growth of the legal centre and the expansion of the needs of the community and catchment area, the centre has continued to provide quality and responsive services to the community.
To provide free legal advice and casework (subject to guidelines) - which may include letters, documents and negotiations, court representation in some cases and referrals to appropriate agencies for non legal issues, community education about legal rights, responsibilities and other issues, law reform/policy activities, whilst maintaining a strong community development focus.
Community Legal Education
The Centre undertakes a range of community legal education activities to provide information and empower the community. These include workshops, seminars, media articles, public stalls and participation in networks to increase awareness of legal rights and responsibilities and help people handle their own legal matters.
Community development activities are an important part of the centre's efforts to strengthen its community. The centre works closely with local agencies to assist their growth and development.
Low cost operation of community legal centres is made possible through significant voluntary contribution and goodwill extended to CLCs. Local lawyers volunteer their time to assist in the provision of legal advice. Community volunteers also assist by interviewing clients prior to seeing a lawyer and providing paralegal and administrative assistance.
The centre operates outreach services in community venues throughout its vast catchment. The centre also provides appointment sessions, telephone advice and drop-in sessions at our Frankston, Bentleigh, Cranbourne, Rosebud and Pines offices.
Committee of Management
Peninsula Community Legal Centre is managed by a community base management committee. The centre's major administrative and policy decisions are made by its Management Committee. On a day to day basis, the centre is managed by the Chief Executive Officer.
Southern Communities Legal Service
In May 1998, Peninsula Community Legal Centre expanded its catchment to include the area formerly serviced by Southern Communities Legal Service (SCLS) when the two centres amalgamated. Due to lack of funding, SCLS was no longer able to adequately maintain a service to its community.
Family Law Program
The Family Law Program commenced in August 2005. This program offers a Duty Lawyer service at the Dandenong Registry of the Family and Federal Magistrates’ Courts, as well as providing clients with advice and casework services.
Outer South East Expansion
The centre has provided outreach services to Cranbourne since 1990. In 2005 the centre received additional funding from the State Government to establish a branch office in Cranbourne and extend its services to Melbourne’s outer south east (Casey and Cardinia municipalities). The centre also offers outreach services to Pakenham.
Community legal centres are about providing free legal advice to those who need it. CLCs aim to address not just the legal problem of the client but to eliminate the structural and systemic barriers to justice. The culture of volunteerism in CLCs is historical and allows us to provide services well beyond our funding. It enhances our social change agenda by bringing lawyers and law students who are generally from privileged backgrounds into contact with our communities.
Booklet: From Humble Beginnings - A brief History of Peninsula Community Legal Centre 1977-2007 is available by contacting the Legal Centre.