Maree Stuart

Aboriginal Legal Services
Summer 2015

I was excited and, I must admit, quite nervous when I was given the opportunity to be an Aurora intern over the summer 2014/2015 period as part of the Aurora Internship Program. Finally I was being given the opportunity to put my toe in the water of a legal career, and, better still, it was doing something in a field that I was passionate about: Indigenous affairs. I did ponder how I would manage to fit everything in, as I was also completing a summer school unit, as well as my usual job as a Mum to two growing children. Not only did I survive and retain my sanity, I had a great time learning about Indigenous issues from some remarkable people.

I travelled into the big wide world of “the city” (I am normally a suburban dweller after all!) and started my internship with the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited (ALS) in early January. Everyone was very welcoming and happy to include me in the organisation. My supervisor, Raymond Brazil, and the other staff at the ALS were very supportive and encouraging and my initial feelings of anxiety were quickly set aside.

I worked on a couple of projects.  The first was development of a directory of relevant and culturally appropriate rehabilitation services to assist the ALS lawyers and field officers in making submissions to Courts to divert Aboriginal offenders from incarceration. I contacted many organisations via email and phone and was pleased with the positive response to the project. Some conversations reduced me to tears to hear first-hand some of the difficulties faced by Aboriginal people, both in the past and at the moment, making me more resolute in doing my small bit to help fix these wrongs. I spoke with so many generous people who were all doing fabulous and valuable work for both indigenous and non-indigenous communities across NSW and the ACT. We produced a first draft of the directory for use by the Youth Koori Court and received very positive feedback from the magistrate to whom this was forwarded. Hopefully this small piece of the puzzle can help to make for a positive future for at least one Indigenous person. As someone famously once said, “From little things big things grow”.

The second project was a review of some internal policies and procedures to better align these with the organisation's processes and ensure these remain relevant with respect to legislative developments in workplace health and safety and human resource management. For me, this was more like slipping on a comfy pair of shoes, as it’s what I do every day in my “real” job as a management consultant. However, I did get to use some of my knowledge about statutory interpretation, proof that this does come in handy….and not just for assignments.

Amongst all of this I really enjoyed meeting and talking with the other Aurora interns at the social event organised at The Rose Hotel half-way through the internship. It was fabulous to chat about the work they were doing and how they were finding working from a logistical perspective, as well as what they would like to do in the future.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! I am already looking forward to my next stint, although my family are probably a little less enthusiastic. Will it help me to get a job in the law? That’s something only time will tell, but everything you do in life leads you to the next step. One thing I know for sure, is that I will be continuing to aim for a legal career and I hope to ultimately be doing something that involves Indigenous peoples.​

I was sad to be finishing the internship. It was a fabulous experience, the people I spoke with enriched my time and working with the ALS and the staff were simply wonderful. I would recommend anyone studying law to apply for an Aurora Internship. Applications happen twice a year, for the summer and winter sessions. So get to it!