DCLS’ 30th Anniversary


  • Founding Meeting – in late 1989 a group of 22 interested members of the community met to consider the need to establish a community legal service in Darwin. The initial meeting saw the legal service to be primarily an advice service in its early unfunded stages and it was hoped that the service would evolve.
  • Establishment of DCLS – DCLS was incorporated in Jan 1990. The elected management committee set about finding premises, volunteers and preparing funding submissions. In mid-1991, the NT Law Society made a grant of $20,000 towards the capital equipment needs of the Centre. There was difficulty in finding suitable premises in the preferred suburb location of Casuarina; in the meantime, Sommerville Community Services made available their Cas office for use each Saturday morning.
  • Volunteer Advice Service – began on 10 August 1991. The opening received considerable publicity; there was no shortage of clients with an average of around 8 clients each Saturday morning session
  • Commonwealth Funding – Aug 1991 DCLS was one of 8 new CLC’s in Australia to be funded for the first time. The allocation being $75,000 for the year 1991/92. This enabled the employment of Gordon Renouf (Coordinator) and Margaret Wearing (Administrator). In the year 1992/93, Commonwealth funding increased to $98,000 including an additional $20,000.
  • The NT Law Handbook – in its’ firth 3 years, DCLS received funding to prepare and publish the NT’s first ever Law Handbook with support and co-publishing from NT Legal Aid Commission.
  • DCLS Patrons – in financial year 2007/08, for the first time in its’ history, DCLS secured Patrons His Honour the Administrator and Mrs Tessa Pauling. This Patronage still exists today with the Administrator holding an annual Reception for DCLS volunteers at Government House
  • Over the years – DCLS has held a number of advocacy and advice services and evolved others. Some of these have been moved on to more appropriate Legal Services or have been established and funded in their own right. Initially, DCLS started with; Domestic Violence Legal Help (DVLH) Darwin, DVLH Alice Springs, Top End Advocacy Service, Disability Discrimination Service, Welfare Rights and Community Legal Education. In the years 1994/95, DVLH at Court, Top End Advocacy Service Katherine and Alice Legal Information Centre were also established. Other service over the years that have either evolved or ceased (with DCLS) include; Aged Care Services, Outreach Program, Tenants Advice Service.
  • Today – DCLS operates in the following areas; General Legal Service (most civil matters (does not include family or criminal law)), Seniors and Disability Rights Service including the Elder Abuse Information Line and the Tenants’ Advice Service. In these area’s, DCLS advocates, provides advice and assistance and/or representation, and strives for policy and reform.
  • Rights on Show Art Awards and Exhibition – was established in 1995 and will this year celebrate its’ 25th year (the show was not run for 2 years). Showcasing artwork from Territory artists from preschool to professional, all abilities. Each year is a different theme, pertaining to a current human rights issue and is open to all interpretations and mediums.

DCLS 30 year history booklet 1990 – 2021

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