Interning in the Top End
For six weeks this summer I was lucky enough to intern at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) in Darwin. It was an unforgettable experience organised by the Aurora Project through their Native Title Internship Program.
NAAJA is an incredible organisation.
NAAJA is a recognised and respected force in the Territory and I was struck by the agency’s vision and determination to provide innovative, culturally proficient, high quality legal services.
I was placed in the Civil section which represents clients on a broad range of matters. A solicitor’s typical case load includes police and health care complaints; civil and statutory compensation claims; child protection and adult guardianship matters; discrimination and employment issues.
NAAJA has impressive geographical reach. Civil advice clinics are regularly held in their Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine and Nhulunbuy offices. And Solicitors also travel remotely providing advice and representation to clients in places I had heard of, like Oenpelli and Galiwin’ku, to others I still wouldn’t be able to point to on a map, like Umbakumba and Numbulwar.
Being an intern was rewarding, challenging and inspiring.
On arrival I attended an introductory session run by my supervisor, the Civil section manager. I was allocated a mentor solicitor who generally oversaw the work I was doing. I was well supported and efforts were made to ensure I was exposed to all facets of NAAJA life.
Every day was different and interesting. If I wasn’t drafting affidavits, advice letters or doing legal research I was attending client interviews, meetings, prison clinics and court.
The bush trips were an awesome experience. On one occasion at a clinic on Bathurst Island I helped organise and record the details of about 25 clients and their families before they were seen by a solicitor. Being thrown into the deep end was fun and I learnt so much just by observing the solicitors working in such an intense setting.
Without a doubt, one of the most valuable elements of my internship was being able to shadow different solicitors, learning from their individual approaches to interviewing clients.
The Aurora Native Title Internship Program:
My placement at NAAJA was all thanks to the Aurora Project. Back in 2004 they developed an Internship Program to help match legal interns with Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) and other Indigenous organisations. Their ultimate aim is to assist with the attraction and retention of legal and other research staff in the native title system and working in Indigenous affairs more generally. Since summer 2003/04, the Program has placed more than 1,000 students and graduates at over 70 organisations around Australia.
After six weeks it was sad to say good bye to NAAJA. So now I am looking forward to graduating and heading back north. I highly recommend the Program to students and graduates with an interest in native title and Indigenous social justice. Visit www.auroraproject.com.au for more info. Applications are open in March and August each year on-line via the website.