The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (‘NAAJA’) has pride of place on Smith Street, Darwin, in the Northern Territory. Stepping from the cloying, humid air (challenging to anyone who has spent too much time in the temperate southern States) into NAAJA’s air-conditioned office is to transition from the tension of the wet season to a workplace teeming with talented and determined legal minds. In Darwin, as compared to Melbourne, everything is amplified: from the drama of a wet-season lightning display to the sweetness of the fruit at the weekend markets. Expect, in the course of your Aurora internship, to experience the entire emotional spectrum: lofty enthusiasm, one or two moments of frustration, the elation of celebrating positive outcomes. Throughout, the NAAJA team remains focused and client-oriented. It is an outstanding place to have the privilege of interning as part of the Aurora Internship Program.
Lawyers at NAAJA tackle an awe-inspiring volume of work. This makes for a relentlessly engaging interning experience. There is always a matter requiring attention and, as an intern, you are fuelled and fulfilled by the knowledge that your work assists the team in their important work. The lawyers are diligent in explaining the context of each matter, thereby placing you in a position to contribute meaningfully. In my case, this included: drafting and filing statements of claim, affidavits, and summons; drafting freedom of information applications; and filing complaints with the NT Police Ombudsman. Each matter brings a unique insight into the Northern Territory justice system. Each day provides numerous opportunities for an intern's growth and learning. NAAJA lawyers are candid in discussing the successes and shortcomings of that system and knowledgeable in describing how other jurisdictions have tacked the issues that prevail in the Territory.
Interning provides a wonderful opportunity to expand one's research skills. After delegating research tasks, the NAAJA lawyers were always willing to provide support and to share skills garnered from years of practical experience. The matters in the civil law section (where I was placed) are rich and varied, including contractual disputes, child protection matters and tort claims. During my time in the Territory, the Royal Commission on Youth Detention was released, condemning the conditions in which juveniles had been detained at the infamous Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. Several of NAAJA’s clients had made submissions to the Commission, and a fulfilling aspect of my role was to compile and communicate to those clients the direct effect of their evidence in the Commission’s ultimate findings and recommendations.
An internship at NAAJA offers the opportunity to engage in the Territory’s legal framework in a manner that extends far beyond the walls of their Smith Street office. NAAJA assists with the ventilation of claims in many of the remote communities across the Territory. NAAJA generously sent me on a trip to Wadeye, 400km south-west of Darwin. It was a white-knuckled, roller-coaster of a journey – thanks to the ferocious storm that buffeted the plane for the last 45 minutes of our passage. In Wadeye, justice operates on a different legal plane. NAAJA lawyers engage with their clients through interpreters, provide walk-in clinics, and locate their clients at home to provide them with updates on their matters. Engagement in NAAJA’s outreach program in one of Australia’s most remote and violent communities is a unique opportunity. NAAJA also makes regular trips to the Darwin Correctional Centre, where interns are invited to attend their walk-in clinic and, with the client’s permission, witness client interviews. The lawyers are extremely proficient. There is so much to be gained from watching them at work in this environment.
Pursue an Aurora internship at NAAJA if you wish to involve yourself in a world of lawyering that cannot be found within the bluestone legal districts of Australia’s more populous cities. Whilst developing your legal skills is certainly an important aspect of any internship, it is only the tip of the termite mound. There is so much more to the fabric of Australia’s legal landscape to be discovered through exposure to the work of such a wonderful organisation. An internship provides the perfect opportunity to survey these intricacies, and to develop your own understanding of the role, purpose and impact of the law across our country.
Applications for the summer 2018/19 round of Aurora internships are currently open and will close at 5pm on Friday the 31st of August. For more information, visit http://auroraproject.com.au/about-applying-internship