Over November and December 2012, I volunteered as an Aurora intern as part of the Aurora Internship Program in the Civil section of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) in Darwin. The Aurora Project is an organisation involved in the legal professional needs of Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs), Indigenous education and Indigenous affairs more generally. Among these activities, it runs an internship program for legal and some social science students and graduates with various organisations working in native title, social justice, human rights – all with an Indigenous focus. NAAJA is a legal aid service provider for Indigenous Australians in both criminal and civil matters. It has three offices in the Northern Territory (Darwin, Katherine, Nhulunbuy).
I chose to do my internship with NAAJA for two reasons. First, having previously worked in legal aid on a part time basis, I wanted to develop that experience in a full-time capacity. Second, being interested in Indigenous affairs, working with NAAJA allowed me to learn about these issues in regional areas such as Darwin.
As an intern in the Civil section I completed a variety of tasks that reflected my ultimate role as an intern of assisting the solicitors in a resource-scarce environment. During the internship my work included preparing a brief to counsel and an affidavit, scribing meetings, researching case law and corresponding with independent government authorities on behalf of clients. One of the additional benefits of working with an organisation such as NAAJA is the opportunity to visit Aboriginal communities in the country when the solicitors conduct bush clinics. As such, the highlight of my internship was a bush trip to Gumbulanya and Oenpelli in western Arnhem Land. On this overnight trip we met previously engaged clients to inform them on developments in their matters and sought further instructions from locals who were experiencing legal issues with a view to taking on their matters. I also made several visits to prison with solicitors to conduct similar meetings with clients who were completing prison sentences.
An Aurora internship is also a great way to meet other students who share similar interests. I completed my internship with several other interns and NAAJA is a very popular organization that routinely hosts interns throughout the year. In addition, as someone who hadn’t visited the ‘Top End’, the internship also allowed me the opportunity do some travelling around the Territory on weekends.
The Aurora internship was an eye-opening experience. Although as an intern you can occasionally be tasked with administrative or procedural work, it is the experience of working in Aboriginal affairs and encountering issues that have not been faced by the majority of law students that makes the internship so enriching. Applications for the upcoming winter 2013 round of internships will be open on-line via the Aurora website from 4th through 28th March 2013 at http://www.auroraproject.com.au/nativetitleinternshipprogram.