Our History & Network
In 1993, the Australian Law Reform Commission held an inquiry into Equality Before the Law and identified many issues relating to women’s inequality. Many individual women and women’s services in the ACT made submissions.
In 1994, the Commission tabled its report, Equality Before the Law: Justice for Women. This report found the legal system itself is a factor in the subordination of women and recommended the establishment of specialist women’s legal services in every State and Territory to ensure women had access to appropriate legal assistance.
In 1995, the Commonwealth government announced funding for women’s legal services across Australia, including in the ACT. Sistertrust ACT Inc, a non-profit community based organisation providing financial and mentoring support to women in the ACT, assisted a group of women to apply for funding to establish a women’s legal centre in the Canberra region. This group incorporated as the Women’s Legal Centre (ACT & Region) Inc on 13 November 1995 and received Commonwealth government funding in the same month.
The Women’s Legal Centre ACT & Region was officially opened on 8 July 1996.
Women's Legal Services Australia
The Centre is part of a national network of accredited, specialist, women-led community legal centres, specifically developed to improve women’s lives through specialist legal representation, support, and advocacy.
Across Australia, Women’s Legal Services provide high quality free legal services, including advice, representation and law reform activities, to support women’s safety, access to rights and entitlements, and gender equality.
Women’s Legal Services prioritise women’s safety, access to rights and entitlements and gender equality. They have specialist expertise in safety and risk management, maintaining a holistic and trauma-informed legal practice, providing women additional multidisciplinary supports, including social workers, financial counsellors, and trauma counsellors, for long-term safety outcomes.
Women’s Legal Services approach the legal issues facing women and their experience of the legal system within a broader analysis of systemic gender inequality. They are committed to providing individual services whilst also working towards deeper legal and cultural change to redress power imbalances and address violence and gender inequality.
There are specialist Women’s Legal Services in every jurisdiction in Australia. Together, these services comprise Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA), which works together to advocate for better justice responses to women in Australia.