The ‘Build Up’, the most humid and hottest period of the year in Darwin, set the scene for what was to become one of the greatest experiences of my life. Escaping the weather to the air-conditioned NAAJA office I was oblivious that my opening the door there would blow my expectations for the Aurora Internship out of the water. Following the advice of the induction manual I kept my expectations low, expecting the photocopier would soon become my best friend. After a busy first morning meeting an openly friendly team, observing a child welfare meeting, sitting in on court and attending a lecture by the Attorney General’s Office, I realised that this was going to be a remarkable opportunity.
NAAJA has three locations, Katherine, Nhulunbey and Darwin and is divided into three sections – civil, criminal and welfare rights. My placement was in the civil section of the Darwin office. The work culture at NAAJA was one of the best environments I have worked in. There is an open door policy and most of the lawyers are easily approachable and willing to offer you some work or answer any questions or issues you may be having. At the same time everyone is hard working, skilled in their communication and passionate about their work. One of the greatest things about my placement was the opportunity to meet so many interesting and ardent young lawyers. The managing solicitor was warm and welcoming; she held much respect from her staff who credited her with the positive work environment. Induction for volunteers at NAAJA also includes cross-cultural training which was a fantastic supplement to the stimulating reading in the orientation manual.
Whilst some of my duties at NAAJA were administrative the majority of work was diverse, interesting and skill enhancing. In the office I was given research tasks on workplace injuries, workplace racial discrimination, super claims, police negligence and domestic violence, police violence in prison, tenancy and housing among other things. I was also given the opportunity to do a discovery on police negligence as well as draft several legal notices. Out of the office I was given the opportunity to observe civil clinics (client interviews), observe interviews at the prison and attend lectures on various Indigenous human rights issues
There were also formal and informal networking opportunities such as Christmas Drinks at the Supreme Court, Young Lawyers Christmas Drinks and casual socialising. Darwin is a rather small community and the opportunity to meet people from a variety of organisations in the Indigenous sphere ‘comes with the territory’. These ranged from domestic violence workers to mediators who specialise in Indigenous issues.
Significant highlights of my internship were the two “bush trips” to visit Daly River and the Tiwi community on Bathurst Island. Aside from the opportunity to get out of the office and see some beautiful country, the experience was instrumental in several ways. Primarily to interact and meet clients, staff from other NGO’s and people in the community. Moreover, it was fantastic to see the solicitors at work, their commitment and skill and the immense value that NAAJA’s presence contributes to the Top End.
If you are interested in working with the Indigenous community NAAJA offers a diverse range of legal and legal education opportunities. Applications for the upcoming winter 2013 round of internships will be open on-line via the Aurora website from 4th through 28th March 2013 at http://www.auroraproject.com.au/nativetitleinternshipprogram