After having completed a placement with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service in Queensland, I was eager to gain further experience in the Indigenous Legal Sector through the Aurora Internship Program. I was placed with the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) in Lismore to work full-time for 4.5 weeks from January the 29th until the 1st of March 2019.
On my first day, I was pleasantly thrusted directly into action. I accompanied one of the solicitors to the Lismore Local Court to interview some people who had been arrested and brought to the police during the morning. Much of my internship involved me accompanying the solicitors to the courts and assisting them by contacting clients and filing documents. I was fortunate enough to attend the Lismore Local Court, Lismore District Court, Ballina Local Court and Tweed Heads Local Court. It was quite interesting seeing how these regional courts operate in contrast to those in Brisbane city.
Attending the courts and interviewing clients with the solicitors was great experience for a number of reasons. Firstly, it gave me further insight into the disadvantages faced by Indigenous people in the face of the law and their treatment by police. I was able to witness and gain a deeper understanding of the struggles many Aboriginal people are facing today. Secondly, shadowing the solicitors meant that I was watching all the stages of advocacy right from the initial interview through to the plea or hearing.
In addition to shadowing the solicitors around the courts I was fortunate to gain other very useful administrative experience. My day to day tasks in the office involved me contacting clients over the phone to progress their files, drafting legal documents such as subpoenas and bail application variations as well as contacting other people such as psychologists and support workers in relation to client files. Other important tasks that I was assigned during my time at ALS were writing evidence summaries for solicitors and researching case law and sentencing principles.
My biggest achievement during my internship occurred when my supervisor tasked me with performing research into sentencing principles for young adult offenders. I spent a number of days carefully reading case law and compiling my findings into a document. In the end, I submitted my research to my supervisor and she was satisfied with it enough to forward throughout the ALS organisation so that it may assist other solicitors advocating for young adult defendants.
Along with the insight into Indigenous legal struggles I also gained a strong appreciation for the hard work that the solicitors at ALS Lismore do. The solicitors at the office were all kind and welcoming to me and it was pleasing to see the effort that they go to in ensuring the best outcomes for their clients.
I would highly recommend undertaking this internship with ALS. It is a great learning curve and the solicitors in the office are more than happy to assist interns and volunteers with their learning by setting a variety of tasks that are sure to expand your skill sets.