Rules for Radicals
Struggles for social justice and human rights very often take decades. I’ve had many reasons to reflect this year on the value and importance of independent community legal centres in maintaining such struggles over a long period of time. Rules for Radicals, that controversial and well-read book by the US organisor Saul Alinsky was published in 1971 and influenced many of our nascent community legal centres, or at least some of their founders, back in those turbulent times. Alinsky’s codification of the ‘organising model’ of community change included an adage to “build organisations, not movements.” The idea was that community campaigns, mobilisations and action groups can generate energy and attention to issues, but without sustained resourcing these campaigns can dissipate all too soon. It’s often left to community-based organisations like this one, that can stay connected to social justice struggles to drive home the systemic change needed to really shift entrenched power and structural injustices.
A lot of our advocacy work began decades ago. This centre has been calling for independent investigations of police misconduct since at least the late eighties. Corinna Horvath was assaulted by police in 1996. It’s been twelve years since we began taking complaints about racial profiling by police. Each of these are still live issues today and we are actively working on them.
Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre provides a structure, deep relationships, and base of shared values that can support struggles for justice over this length of time. It’s a testament to the vision of our founders and to every staff, board member and volunteer since that we have maintained this model of radical social justice and community organising.
Similarly, as many of our staff so eloquently describe, our model of integrated client support has developed organically as a response to local community need. Our ability to provide a ‘wrap around’ service that is able to meet the diverse legal needs (as well as many non-legal needs) of clients is an example of our nimble grassroots responsiveness that we should be proud of.