Alison Pooley

Justice Agencies
Winter 2016

On the final day of my Aurora internship at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), I was asked what the three highlights of my time in Darwin had been. My response, only half serious was as follows: (1) sleeping on a half inflated mattress on the floor in Wadeye (one of the communities NAAJA visits each month); (2) being initiated into the team by receiving a ‘Team NAAJA’ t-shirt; and (3) heading out to Kakadu. Reflecting back on this response, I realise that these three things probably did symbolise the highlights of the internship, which was part of the Aurora Internship Program.

Firstly, the work. The work I did at NAAJA was diverse, challenging and interesting. I was placed in the Civil section, and was involved in matters ranging from child protection to prison complaints to anti-discrimination claims. Every month NAAJA sends solicitors out on circuits to the communities in the Top End for civil clinics. I was fortunate enough to join the trip out to Wadeye, a community of about 2,000 people, 6 hours from Darwin. Sleeping on a half inflated mattress squashed into a room with two solicitors and the client service officer was a genuinely great experience. Access to justice is a complex issue in the NT and without these clinics, it would be even more difficult for people in remote communities to get the legal representation that they are entitled to. It was also good for me to meet some of our clients and interpreters, see the girls play softball and go to the working bee at the art centre.

On top of the day to day work of NAAJA, however, there were also two major events that took place while I was working there. The first was a Court of Appeal case that NAAJA had been working on for some time, in which it was argued that the Alcohol Protection Orders in Darwin should be set aside on the basis it contravenes s10 of the Racial Discrimination Act. The second, was the Four Corners exposé of Don Dale. This was particularly significant having caught national attention and it was exciting to be part of the buzz of its aftermath. Being there for these two events allowed me the unique opportunity to witness some of the ground breaking work that NAAJA does in advocacy and pushing for policy reform.

The second of my highlights was ‘team NAAJA’. Everyone in Civil was passionate and dedicated, not cynical and overstretched as can often happen in this line of work. Although the solicitors were always very busy which meant I was required to work quite independently, they always made time when I did have questions or need support.

Finally, the top end. One of the great things about interning in Darwin was that I could spend some time exploring the national parks. The weather was perfect and over the long weekends I was able to do some travel to the Litchfield waterfalls and to Kakadu. It’s a beautiful part of the world and it was amazing to be able to discover the rock-art, gorges, lagoons and of course crocs. I felt like I got so much out of this experience and would recommend NAAJA Civil to anyone looking to do an Aurora placement.

The Aurora Internship Program offers internships in both the winter and the summer university breaks for between 4-6 weeks, with some flexibility for graduates. If you would like to learn more about the Program, check out their website: Applications for the summer 2016/17 round of internships are now open through 26 August.