In the summer break I was fortunate enough to undertake a four-week internship at Windeyer Chambers under Vance Hughston SC and Tina Jowett through the Aurora Internship Program. I can say with confidence that this experience will shape my future career as a legal professional, providing an array of invaluable legal knowledge and practical skills.
I began my internship with a basic knowledge of native title law but was soon to realise this was a complex area of the law. It is unique in how a native title determination is made through a two-step process to establish an ongoing connection to country, then the extinguishment over that land. It requires empathy, by both legal professionals and judges, with connection to country both physical and spiritual, and it is made more difficult to demonstrate by previous events involving the relocation of indigenous people. It encompasses interaction between claim groups and their authorised applicants, registered native title bodies corporate, representative legal bodies, expert witnesses (eg. anthropologists), and barristers. It is not static, with the law constantly evolving, requiring creative thinking to problem solve within native title law and broader legal knowledge. Finally, it requires intricate knowledge of the parties involved as cases can be ongoing over several years and can require separate matters to be dealt with in the determination.
Due to the complexity of native title law, I was required to undertake a variety of tasks independently and in collaboration with both barristers during my internship that included:
- research to gain further knowledge of the application of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), Federal Court of Australia practice notes, the Federal Court Rules 2011 and various case law principles, and doctrines of law;
- completing research notes on a number of complex issues involving native title law, and the law generally;
- compiling and updating briefs for both barristers, which involved being proactive and organised to ensure they contained all necessary items, and searched items could be found easily;
- submitting and compiling funding applications for a native title revised determination and an appeal;
- drafting an article on a presently relevant topic in native title law for Tina Jowett’s presentation at an upcoming conference;
- assisting with argument development for interlocutory hearings, directions hearings, and appeals;
- analysing case references in submissions to ensure what has been argued is what has occurred in which I found discrepancies to assist with the client’s case;
- determining the relevancy of exhibits in appeal books by reading witness statements, anthropologist reports and mining tenements.
Interning with Vance Hughston SC and Tina Jowett provided an insight into the interaction between clients and instructing solicitors with counsel, with their legal expertise and extensive experience providing for a rare learning opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Vance Hughston SC and Tina Jowett. Their guidance provided an engaging introduction to native title law. I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to advance their knowledge of native title law to undertake an internship through the Aurora Internship Program.