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First Step Legal is a unique community legal centre established in 2008.  We aspire be part of a community where everyone can access high quality, compassionate and empowering legal help.

Our mission is to increase access to justice for particularly vulnerable people by bringing integrated legal help to them, wherever they present for support.

We are committed to:

• Giving our clients a voice and agency in decisions regarding the conduct of their legal matter.
• Recognising the harms many of our clients have experienced and responding in a compassionate, trauma informed way.
• Achieving high quality legal resolutions that will assist in reducing our clients’ further contact with the justice system.
• Encouraging our clients to engage with treatment that will enhance their wellbeing and reduce further contact with the justice system.
• Supporting our clients holistically, with legal and non-legal needs.


First Step Legal is accredited with the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC). It holds membership with the Federation of Community Legal Centres (FCLC) and Community Legal Centres Australia.

Our Director of Legal Services, Tania Wolff, is an VCAT Member and a sessional legal member of the Mental Health Tribunal. She was President of the Law Institute of Australia from 2021-2023 – a record three years – and remains a Director. She is Treasurer and Executive Member of the Law Council of Australia, a member pf the Victorian Legal Admissions Committee and an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist. As Director of Legal Services, Tania leads a small close-knit team including a Health Justice Partnership Lead, Acting Principal Lawyer and Family Lawyer, Practice Manager, Senior Criminal Lawyer, two Criminal-Generalist Lawyers, a Volunteer Lawyer, three Legal Case Manager’s, and ten volunteer paralegals.


First Step Legal assists specialist client cohorts across a wide range of service settings. Working collaboratively with treating professionals within our health justice partnerships to help stabilise and support clients in their recovery and facilitate court dispositions that support a clients’ ongoing treatment and recovery in the community.

First Step Legal operates seven health-justice partnerships: the First Step Program (clinic); Windana Therapeutic Community; Alfred Health (St Kilda Road Clinic); Better Health Network; Launch Housing; Meli; and Anglicare. First Step Legal only accepts referrals from these partners and prioritises its casework to focus on clients who are genuinely engaged or wanting to be engaged in treatment, recovery and therapeutic interventions that will support their ongoing wellbeing. As part of this work, we prioritise client input into the design and operation of our services for people with complex mental health needs, and substance use disorders.

We practice predominantly in relation to criminal law and family violence (both victims and perpetrators), as well as conducting casework in family law, infringements, and victims of crime. Limited assistance – including discrete advice or a supported referral - may be provided in some areas of law, (e.g. tenancy, debt). Secondary consultations with treating professional within our partnerships, may include referrals for clients with other legal matters.

Funding sources:

First Step Legal was initially funded with the support of several long-standing private individuals, families and foundations who have generously supported us and our work for many years. This support has grown and now also includes funds from the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program (CSLP) National Legal Assistance Funding (NLAP), Victorian Department of Justice (DOJ) funding (Responding to men who use family violence) and Victorian Legal Services Board (VLSB).


If you wish to make a complaint with about First Step Legal's service, please email our Practice Manager Laura Brennan

Alternatively, you may contact the Victorian Legal Service Board Commission: Complaints | VLSBC


You can read about First Step Legal's impact here:

First Step Legal Publications