In summer 2014 I undertook an Aurora Native Title Internship and was placed with Mr Andrew Collett, an Adelaide based native title barrister. Andrew has dedicated his life’s work to facilitating Indigenous access to justice in Australia. As a law student, this was a fabulous opportunity to gain many unique insights into Andrew’s field of legal expertise and the life of a barrister generally.
My role was to shadow Andrew’s work. I quickly learnt that Andrew leads a fast paced and colourful life. The day’s plan could change instantly and we could find ourselves changing course to attend an urgent meeting. Andrew briefed me on upcoming matters or chatted about his work or his love for history and jazz as we walked across the streets of Adelaide to meeting places or Court. During this time I could ask Andrew questions and gain an insight to his perspective on aspects of his work.
The work that I observed was not strictly native title in nature. I was exposed to matters involving Indigenous land rights issues and Indigenous issues generally. I was also exposed to interesting motor vehicle accident matters, immigration detention matters and issues involving false imprisonment. It was a mixed bag, an opportunity to develop my understanding of many areas of the law.
I enjoyed the opportunity to attend Andrew’s meetings with clients, expert witnesses, fellow members of the legal profession and other professionals in the field of Indigenous affairs. I watched Andrew appear in Court. I observed the skills involved in conducting a client interview, particularly in relation to Andrew’s Aboriginal clients. I attended meetings with solicitors and counsel in which the argument for a Criminal Court of Appeal matter was prepared and bounced around.
A highlight of my placement was attending a settlement conference; this was an excellent learning experience. I was present in the conference room and observed the careful tactics of negotiation. I could also appreciate the importance of guiding the client through the process and managing the client’s expectations, and the skills involved in doing so. With a successful result we celebrated the day with a trip to the Adelaide Central Markets and I was treated to after work drinks and nibbles with Andrew’s office and family. In attending a settlement conference, I felt that I had had the chance to witness all stages of the litigation process.
During my placement I undertook legal research and drafted documents such as statement of claims and affidavits. I received valuable one-on-one guidance on research methods, the precise role of a statement of claim and guidance on formatting and appropriate writing styles. I also prepared briefs and assisted Andrew to prepare for trials and other matters before the Court.
I strongly recommend the Aurora Native Title Internship Program. The experience enabled me to develop valuable practical legal skills and broaden my understanding of litigation and the work of a barrister. My internship has further inspired my desire to pursue a career working in Indigenous affairs. Applications for the summer 2014/15 internship round will open from 4 August 2014 through to 29 August 2014 on-line via their website. For more information about the Aurora Native Title Internship Program visit www.auroraproject.com.au.