Frank Connolly

Organisation: 
Stream: 
Legal
Sector: 
Aboriginal Legal Services
Location: 
Katherine
Round: 
Summer 2018

I was approaching the end of my university degree and felt the need to get out of my comfort zone and do something a bit different. Consequently, I decided I would submit an application to complete a six-week legal internship through the Aurora Internship Program.

Having grown up in a small regional town, I had been aware of Indigenous issues from a young age. With a view to returning to my rural roots, I figured the internship would improve my cultural awareness and sensitivity and provide me with a useful skill-set which I could potentially utilise later in my professional career.

Not long after my application was approved, I found out that my internship would be with the Civil team at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) in Katherine, Northern Territory. A quick google search indicted that NAAJA had provided legal services for more than 40 years in the Top End and was highly respected for providing culturally appropriate legal services. It was fair to say that I was looking forward to experiencing some of the work that they do.

Arriving in Katherine on New Year’s Eve, the first thing that struck me was the brutal heat and humidity. Consequently, my first week working at NAAJA entailed a combination of trying to stay cool whilst taking on board a lot of new information. However, I soon started to acclimatize once the heavy rains began to hit in the afternoons with increased regularity.

My supervisor had collected an array of different tasks from the other lawyers for me to commence working on upon my arrival. I found myself conducting research, drafting different types of letters and legal documents, and liaising with clients. Much of NAAJA’s work can be very demanding as many clients’ problems are often linked with other social and economic issues. I worked on cases involving child protection matters, consumer problems, coronial inquests, police complaints and government service problems.

In addition to my work in the office, I was fortunate to attend two week-long bush trips to several remote communities to provide advice or assistance to any community members. In addition to witnessing some amazing scenery, I was able to meet the people living in these remote areas and understand the difficulties that they faced on a daily basis. It was clear that they have been let down badly by numerous government policies and services, and that significant improvements are long overdue in areas such as housing, health and education.

Another gratifying feature of the internship was that I was working on and completing ‘actual’ legal work rather than simply collecting coffees or spending hours scanning documents (just some of the stories I have heard from friends!). Consequently, there was never a dull moment as I was constantly learning new information and developing my legal skills. The only quiet moment occurred on my final half-day of work when I was able to attend the courthouse and observe some of the proceedings.

I was fortunate to meet a fantastic group of people working at NAAJA who were very open with their knowledge to me and encouraging of my development. Despite how hard they worked, they always had time to answer my questions or organise ‘catch-ups’ to ensure I was on the right track. I was provided with a lot of responsibility which motivated me to ensure I returned a good quality of work. Overall, I found the internship highly rewarding.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at NAAJA and will make sure to stay updated on its future activities. I would advise anyone who is interested about applying for an Aurora Internship to access the plethora of information available on the Aurora website: http://auroraproject.com.au/about-internship-program