Sophie Dembski

Justice Agencies
Winter 2015

Even now I can’t believe how quickly my Aurora Project internship with the Law and Justice Section of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) passed. Time flies when you are having fun – and also when you’re busy – two things I happened to be during my internship. My six weeks in Darwin were full of busy times working on projects of all sorts and sizes, as well as exploring the city and catching up with my extended family.

The Law and Justice section of NAAJA complements the Criminal and Civil sections, and works across several areas including law reform, community legal education, Throughcare and Prisoner-support work. Although my work primarily focused on law reform and policy work, I really enjoyed watching and learning from the other areas, such as the collaboration with the Indigenous Hip Hop Projects (check them out on NAAJA’s website!)

My major project was drafting some Justice policy documents, though I completed all sorts of work: including research on several subjects (such as Aboriginal overrepresentation in prison, youth justice and therapeutic jurisprudence), compiling statistics, drafting grant applications, transcribing cultural competency trainings and examining Coronial inquests. I also followed one client through their cases in Court, attending several Court sessions while also filing documents, preparing submissions, tracking down opposing lawyers and delivering documents.

I think that the best part of this internship was knowing that my own work was actively helping the team with theirs, and that I was contributing to an organisation that works to achieve justice and legal empowerment for Aboriginal people in the Top End. NAAJA is a workplace where everyone works extremely hard, and you’ve got to run to keep up. But it’s worth it, and everyone in the team is more than willing to have a chat and help you out.

It was not my first trip to Darwin (and I’ve even previously visited on another Aurora internship), though it was my first visit in the dry season - and what a difference that makes. Although a lovely place at the best of times, the (slightly) milder weather allows for more quality time outside – for example, at the markets – and thankfully this time around I was less paranoid about impending cyclones.

This is my fourth internship with Aurora – and each one as I go on has been my “favourite” so far. Each time I have been lucky enough to be placed with amazing organisations, in different places all over Australia. I am thankful for this opportunity and grateful to the Placements team for all their hard work. If you want to work at any of these extraordinary places you should apply for the next round of placements - applications for the winter 2016 round are open from 7 March through 1 April and in August for the summer 2016/17 round, and place legal, anthropological and social science students with native title bodies and other organisations working in social justice and supporting the broader Indigenous sector. See the details on their website –