The importance of community legal education

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Importance of Community Legal Education
What is it?

Community legal education is legal information provided to young people about legal issues that may affect them and impact their lives.  The purpose of community education is to equip a young person with knowledge and awareness so they can make effective decisions and avoid getting into legal difficulties or making a legal situation worse for themselves.

Youth Legal Service has done several YouTube videos on young people’s rights and responsibilities when interacting with the police.  One of the videos is about a young persons right and responsibilities when being questioned by a police officer. It is important for a young person to provide their full name, date of birth, current address and where the person normally resides when requested to do so by a police officer. 

Another video is about police powers to provide a person with a move-on notice.  Failure to comply with a move-on notice can lead to a charge of Failing to obey a Police Officer.

Youth Legal Service also has Fact Sheets on its website covering a range of topics such as alcohol and drug laws, traffic laws and information around education and schools.

Another example of community legal education that Youth Legal Service does is provide information on cyber-bullying and what a young person can do when they experience cyber-bullying or on-line harassment.

Why is it Important?

Community education is important because it provides young people with information, knowledge and understanding of the law and how it applies to them. 

The law impacts many areas of our life.  For example, it is illegal not to attend school.  The law sets when a young person can start to work and the conditions of their employment.  Issues of consent and sexual activity are also impacted by the law, for example what it means to give consent and at what age consent can be given.

A person may not realise how the law impacts a particular area of their life, until it is explained to them through legal education.  When a person understands how the law affects them, they have the knowledge to make useful decisions about their situation and how they can respond in a more effective way to avoid legal problems.

What it is not?

It is important to remember community legal education is not the same as legal advice.  Legal education assists in understanding how legal principles apply in general situations. However, where there has been a breach of the law the circumstances can vary, so legal advice is necessary to understand how the law is applied to that specific situation.  Individual legal advice is still required, to ensure the law is applied correctly. 

  – Written by David Kernohan, Director of Youth Legal Services


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