Over the Winter break, I completed an internship in the civil section of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) in Darwin as part of the Aurora Native Title Internship Program. With a keen interest in Indigenous issues and knowledge of many seminal cases set in the Northern Territory, I was looking forward to learning more about the issues from people directly affected by them.
North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency
NAAJA is a not-for-profit, community legal service that provides legal aid for disadvantaged Aboriginal people across the northern NT. With offices in Darwin, Katherine and Nhulunbuy, its distinctiveness comes from the bush clinics it regularly provides in some of the most rural communities of the Territory. In the Civil Section, the lawyers work with community liaison officers to provide advice on a range of civil matters from adult guardianship and child protection, to victims and motor accident compensation, police and government compensation and medical negligence to name a few.
Throughout my five weeks in the office, I spent most of my time doing case law and library research, editing and referencing articles, attending client meetings, taking notes in court, running errands, and writing a memo on the grounds of an appeal, case chronologies, letters and document discoveries.
From the beginning, the highlight was learning more about the issues facing Aboriginal people, especially in remote communities, and gaining insight and skills in cross-cultural work. This particularly came out in client meetings, whether they were during visits to the prison, the hospital or a remote Aboriginal community. Also, as my first legal internship, I took away a greater understanding of the role of a solicitor and the broad work it involves, from reviewing court documents to regularly communicating with clients.
In my final week interning, I was privileged to accompany a small team of staff on a bush clinic to west Kakadu in Arnhem Land and witness the full range of NAAJA’s work. Over the course of two days, we drove through the vast and beautiful area of Kakadu and set up shop in two remote towns of Gunbalanya and Jabiru. We met with clients to discuss developments in their matters and received further instructions from locals in need of legal support. For my benefit as a tourist, we also visited Ubirr, a sacred site of Aboriginal rock paintings that put the work we were doing in a unique context.
Life in Darwin
Darwin is an incredible place to live and visit. In town during the dry season, the weather was beautiful and all the markets and tourist attractions were at their peak. Surrounded by impressive national parks, every weekend brought with it opportunities for adventure that made it that much harder to leave at the end of the five weeks.
The overall experience was truly eye-opening, through which I learned a great deal, had a lot of fun and gained insight into my vocation in the future.
Visit the Aurora website atwww.auroraproject.com.au. Applications for the winter 2014 round will be open from 3rdMarch to the 28thMarch.