I completed an Aurora internship via the Aurora Internship Program with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA). NAAJA has two offices: one in Katherine and one in Darwin, the former in which I did my internship. The internship lasted five weeks and I believe that it was one of my most formative and valuable experiences in a personal and professional sense.
NAAJA in Katherine has two groups of solicitors: a civil law group and a criminal law group. A ‘Chinese Wall’ system operates between the teams in order to comply with legal professional and ethical obligations. I worked with the criminal law group. The work of the criminal practice is varied and spans a range of clients that have been charged with offences varying from summary to indictable. The core of the legal work is advocacy. The lawyers conduct (inter alia) pleas, trials, negotiations with prosecutors, mentions and other hearings. The legal work also includes lawyers acting as duty solicitor at the Katherine Local Court and bush circuit courts on a rotating basis.
The work of NAAJA criminal law group interns closely associates to the work that the NAAJA criminal law group lawyers do. Interns are involved in providing general assistance to the duty lawyers which may include research, obtaining relevant information from clients and observing proceedings. I also had the opportunity to support the lawyers that went to the bush circuit courts on two occasions. One was in Mataranka and the other in Yarralin and Timber Creek (which occurred over the course of three days).
As the lawyers often require much detailed preparation for their matters that are to be heard in court, the assistance of interns is often required. Accordingly, interns will be involved in matters such as analysing evidence for its admissibility, conducting research in relation to various aspects of cases and contacting relevant stakeholders to obtain material for pleas, bail applications and other hearings.
In relation to the logistics of my trip, travel and accommodation, I am very grateful and thankful for the work of Gilbert + Tobin (‘G+T’). G+T has held a long association with Aurora, providing two fully-funded placements each year for Sydney summer clerks. The assistance G+T provided me was invaluable in allowing me to contribute the most I could to my internship and gain the most from the experience.
I believe that my experience at NAAJA was inspiring. During my time at NAAJA, I feel that I was participating in an important way in a legal practice that is at the forefront of advancing the public interest and social justice in Australia. NAAJA plays an important role in providing access to justice, particularly for Indigenous Australians. I left NAAJA with a furthered passion to strive for social justice and the public interest in the work that I do.
My time at NAAJA was invaluable as it provided for excellent professional development. The tasks that I was asked to complete and the extent of my involvement exceeded my expectations. All of the lawyers were generous with their time and improved my knowledge of the law. I also learnt a lot about good advocacy through being able to observe court proceedings regularly. The tasks that I was set were challenging and I developed research and writing skills. In turn, I felt my contributions were valued and led to outcomes for our clients.
I also feel that I developed at a personal level at NAAJA. I had an opportunity to meet some new people that came from all parts of the world to make a contribution in Katherine. I had an opportunity to visit some exceptionally beautiful parts of Australia. I was fortunate enough to be able to see some impressive country during my trips to bush court. I also had time on weekends to visit places like Edith Falls, Katherine Gorge and Litchfield National Park.
My advice for prospective interns would be to have an open mind and be willing to get involved to the greatest extent possible. Lawyers appreciate assistance and often have more work to be done which the interns may assist with. At NAAJA Katherine, the opportunity to witness excellent advocacy in practice is unparalleled and provides a chance for plenty to be learnt. Going with an open mind is important as it allows one to absorb more from their experience. At NAAJA Katherine, I believe having an open mind led me to gain a lot of legal, cultural and personal insights.