Emma Goodwin

Aboriginal Legal Services
Winter 2017

My Aurora internship with ALS Lismore as part of the Aurora Internship Program was an incredible learning experience for me.

ALS Lismore is a small team of extremely hardworking individuals who cover an enormous workload. The fast-paced nature of the work meant that I was learning on the go however the staff were always very helpful. This internship gave me great insight into the challenges that clients and their representatives face in the court system.

I worked 4 days a week with most days involving court attendance with the solicitors. During the internship I was able to attend Lismore, Ballina and Kyogle Local Courts, Lismore Children’s Court, and District Court. I was also able to observe part of a Supreme Court murder trial that was sitting in Lismore during my last week.

At court I observed ALS solicitors taking instructions from their clients prior to going before the magistrate. It was a great learning experience to observe the different interviewing techniques solicitors had in taking instructions. Through this experience, I was able to gain some understanding of client’s background and challenges they were facing. I gained insight in issues of drug dependency and intergenerational problems in some families leading to the ‘revolving door’ of court.

By observing the ALS solicitors (and others, such as LegalAid) present their matters in court, I gathered an understanding of the types of penalties awarded for certain offences. It was very interesting to see how different magistrates dealt with similar matters. Once I felt comfortable with the way the court room worked, I was able to do a few mentions myself, in both Children’s Court and Lismore Local Court. While initially a terrifying prospect it was a confidence-building experience and I am very glad I had the opportunity to do it.

During my time with ALS I was able to attend a meeting between the solicitors, field officer and  rehabilitation program leaders. The meeting was to establish a referral system where the solicitors could suggest to the court that a client would benefit from this program which could assist in changing their circumstances/help reconcile their offences.

During the afternoons I would typically do administrative tasks including drafting court documents such as bail variation applications, and severity appeals. The internship also provided me the opportunity to liaise with police officers, rehabilitation clinics, community mental health and medical services, correctional facilities, barristers, and other solicitors from services such as LegalAid. I was often tasked with getting or passing on relevant information for ALS clients. One example was to organise a time to view CCTV footage of one of our clients from the informant police officer.

Overall, I feel I gained a great appreciation of the important and challenging work performed by ALS and would highly recommend this internship.

Details can be found on the Aurora Internship Program website: http://auroraproject.com.au/internship-program 

Applications are open twice a year. Applications for the winter 2018 round will be open from 5 through 30 March 2018.