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The outcomes of community legal education: a systematic review, Justice issues paper 18  ( 2014 )  Cite this report

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What is CLE?

CLE (also known as public legal education (PLE) in some other countries) has been conducted in the legal sector in NSW and elsewhere for over 30 years. In the Guidelines for the Management of Community Legal Education Practice, the Australian National Community Legal Education Advisory Group defines CLE as:

    … the provision of information and education to members of the community on an individual or group basis, concerning the law and legal processes and the place of these in the structure of society. The community may be defined geographically or by issue. (Combined Community Legal Centres Group (CCLCG) 2004, p.9)

In its broadest sense, CLE includes not only face-to-face education activities, but also the provision of legal information and education in any format — for example, legal education resources such as factsheets, booklets and DVDs. However, this review focused only on CLE which included a component of face-to-face activity.

CLE may be conducted on a broad range of legal topics, ranging from family law to copyright to credit/debt issues.

CLE targets either community members who are perceived to be at risk of or who are already facing legal issues and/or non-legal workers who work with these community members. These workers are an important ‘first port of call’ for socially and economically disadvantaged people with legal problems (Clarke & Forell 2007, p.1; see also Coumarelos et al. 2012, p.109). CLE programs are generally conducted either by legal organisations, or non-legal organisations that have an interest in legal issues or whose clients may have specific legal issues (e.g. domestic violence support services, tenancy services). Some are conducted as standalone programs, whilst others are components of broader programs covering various other activities, for example, the distribution of written education materials, legal advice and assistance or policy work.


Wilczynski, A, Karras, M & Forell, S 2014, The outcomes of community legal education: a systematic review, Justice issues paper 18, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney.