The National Children’s and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC) is Australia’s only national community legal centre dedicated to representing the rights and interests of children and young people. The Centre provides advice and information for children and young people about the law and their rights and responsibilities. It also works with those who support and advocate for children. NCYLC lobbies governments to consider children and child rights when developing legislation and policies that may have an impact on young people.
The National Children's and Youth Law Centre was established in June 1993 with a three-year seeding grant from the then Australian Youth Foundation, now Foundation for Young Australians. The Centre was run as a joint project of the University of Sydney, the University of NSW and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
At the end of the three-year seeding grant, the Commonwealth Attorney General's Department agreed to provide on-going funding for the Centre. However, the Department funding provides for two solicitors only, not covering the full operation, promotion and staffing needs of the Centre and its services.
Quality legal programs providing service to children and young people
The Centre has developed a national profile among children and young people, and is recognised as one of few peak national bodies advocating for children and young people. NCYLC is often the first point of contact for media agencies seeking statements about youth issues, and the staff frequently address public and professional seminars on youth, legal and human rights issues.
The Centre has also played a fundamental role in the provision of legal advice to young people, and has been central in representing their interests in law reform. In April 1997, the Centre developed an innovative facility for providing these services online: Lawstuff and Lawmail. The site has radically transformed the Centre's ability to offer legal advice nationally.
Since then, the Lawstuff website has been regularly updated, to include comprehensive information on a diverse range of topics for children in different states. In October 2010, a redeveloped Lawstuff website featuring a new ‘look and feel’ went live online. Lawstuff continues to provide valuable information and advice to young people, and now features an interactive animation, "CourtStuff, providing valuable visual insight into what young people can expect when going to court.
In October 1998 LawMail was added to the LawStuff website. LawMail is an interactive Internet legal advice and information service aimed at young people across Australia, and is hosted on the Lawstuff website. During the year from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 the Centre provided responses to 834 LawMails. Over the past 5 years, the topics of most concern to young people include:
In early 2007 the Centre built on its existing relationship with law firm King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) to pilot a new pro bono program in the Brisbane KWM office called the Cyber Volunteer Pilot Project. After the success of the pilot, the Centre and Mallesons agreed to roll out the Project nationally. The Project is now being engaged in each of the capital cities where KWM has offices – Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Perth. The Project is a scheme where solicitors and other staff of KWM, Telstra and ASIC volunteer to help NCYLC answer LawMails, update and prepare LawStuff content and work on policy projects.
Our collaboration with the Child Rights Taskforce has continued to build and we can now claim strong direct relationships with the representatives from UNICEF, Oxfam and Save the Children. The Child Rights Taskforce, a coalition of organisations committed to the development of child rights in Australia, is currently engaged in the preparation of an NGO Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Taskforce is jointly convened by UNICEF Australia and the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre and a Steering Committee has been established for the reporting process.
A vision to further enhancing access to justice
The National Children’s and Youth Law Centre and UNICEF Australia has come together to convene The Child Rights Taskforce, which has begun the Non-Government Organisation (NGO) Reporting Process for the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The issues, ideas and recommendations that are included in the NGO Report have been considered by the UN Committee when it assesses Australia’s performance under Convention on Rights of the Child (CROC) in early 2012.
With one office (Sydney) staffed by the equivalent of 3 full-time people, the NCYLC operates under exceptionally limited resources. Through the support of a small team of volunteers and generous pro-bono services from sections of the legal community across Australia, the Centre is able to maintain its services.
Currently, NCYLC is committed to attracting further sponsorship and support to ensure that children and young people have greater access to legal services and information.
NCYLC is a registered charitable, non-government organisation and donations are tax-deductible: CFN 10092. Should you or your organisation wish to support the ongoing work and the provision of services by the Centre, please contact our Director, Matthew Keeley via the contact page.