I was fortunate enough to complete an Aurora internship at the Aboriginal Legal Services (NSW/ACT) (ALS) Head Office this winter. The ALS is a community based organisation that acts for, and provides legal advice to, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children. Since its founding in 1970 the ALS has opened 23 offices throughout NSW and ACT and continues to aid its clients in family, criminal and child care and protection law matters.
The majority of my tasks at the ALS involved responding to a variety of policy submission requests from key government departments in the criminal sector. This was an area of law that I had no previous experience and was eager to develop an understanding in. The written submissions I responded to related to proposed amendments to criminal and sentencing laws, a review of correctional standards, changes to government preventative programs and a proposed terms of reference for a review into the sentencing process.
It was both exciting and challenging to be given the autonomy to draft submissions on behalf of the ALS and the interests of the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Under the guidance of the ALS’ Chief Legal Officer I developed my understanding of the ALS’ standing in relation to a number of policy issues and learnt the need to find creative ways to advocate on your client’s behalf.
In addition to policy work, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Legal Aid NSW Criminal Law Conference which was held at the International Convention Centre this year. Renowned advocates and leaders in the Aboriginal community, such as Millie Ingram and Professor Jack Beeston, spoke to their personal experiences and the legal work they had been involved in. The conference gave me an overarching view of the ALS’ deep history and the steps needed to combat the disadvantages Aboriginal people continue to face in the criminal justice system.
Ultimately it was a privilege to aid the community of ALS lawyers, staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to improve the outcomes for their client base and drive change for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The perspectives I have adopted and skills I have learnt during my internship will remain with me throughout my legal career.
I cannot recommend the Aurora Internship Program more highly and would encourage anyone interested in gaining legal experience at an Aurora host organisation to apply. Applications are open twice a year and more information can be found by visiting: http://auroraproject.com.au/internship-program. Applications for the winter 2018 round will be open in March 2018.