The Australian Pro Bono Centre (prior to June 2015 the National Pro Bono Resource Centre) is an independent centre of expertise that aims to grow the capacity of the Australian legal profession to provide pro bono legal services that are focused on increasing access to justice for socially disadvantaged and/or marginalised persons, and furthering the public interest.
While the Centre does not provide legal advice, its policy and research work supports the provision of free legal services and informs government of the role that it can play to encourage the growth of pro bono legal services. The Centre’s work is guided by a board and advisory council which include representatives of community legal organisations, pro bono referral schemes and organisations, the private legal profession, universities and government.
Established in 2002 as an independent, not-for-profit organisation at the University of New South Wales, it was envisaged that the Centre would:
Stimulate and encourage the development, expansion and co-ordination of pro bono services, as well as offering practical assistance for pro bono service providers (and potential providers). The Centre would play the key roles of facilitating pro bono practice and enabling the collection and exchange of information.1
The strategies that the Centre employs to grow pro bono capacity include:
Strengthening the place of pro bono legal work within the Australian legal profession as an integral part of legal practice by:
- being a leading advocate for pro bono legal work;
- promoting the pro bono ethos and increasing the visibility of pro bono legal work;
- developing policies and advocating for measures to encourage an increase in the quality and amount of pro bono legal work; and
- producing resources and sharing information in Australia, regionally and internationally, that builds pro bono culture in the Australian legal profession and participation by Australian lawyers in pro bono legal work.
Providing practical assistance to facilitate, and remove barriers to, the provision of pro bono legal services by:
- undertaking research on how pro bono legal assistance can best respond to unmet legal need, including the identification of best practice in its provision;
- engaging in policy development, advocacy and law reform on issues that have an impact on pro bono legal services;
- providing practical advice to lawyers and law firms to support their efforts to increase the quantity, quality and impact of their pro bono legal work;
- informing community organisations about the way pro bono operates in Australia; and
- leading in the development of new and innovative pro bono project and partnership models.
Promoting the pro bono legal work of the Australian legal profession to the general public by:
- informing members of the public through the media and presentations about the pro bono legal work undertaken by members of the Australian legal profession.
The Australian Pro Bono Centre operates with the financial assistance it receives from the Commonwealth and State and Territories Attorney-General Departments. The centre is also grateful for the support it receives from the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales, which includes the use of the Faculty’s premises and facilities.
1 National Pro Bono Task Force, Report of the National Pro Bono Task Force to the Commonwealth Attorney-General, 14 June 2001, p 14, http://www.nationalprobono.org.au/ssl//CMS/files_cms/Task%20Force%20report.pdf.