Darwin. That sunny, Top-End city, characterised by red dirt, crocodiles and wild national parks. Being a relatively ambitious country girl, I had always dreamed about living in a city with the perfect combination of the city and nature. So when the time came to pick my preferences on my Aurora application, Darwin and Broome featured heavily. I wanted to see what life would be like up north, and whether I could ever see myself working in native title in the Northern Territory.
Why I wanted to do native title
I decided to undertake an Aurora Internship via the Aurora Internship Program because I wanted to see what it would be like to work in a Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) that offered a variety of work. I had become interested in the intersection of land ownership and human rights, and I wanted to investigate how this works practically, across a number of different fields. To me, it was the best way to combine my interests in human rights and development, land rights and see how it affects people’s lives on the ground.
Why I chose the Northern Land Council (NLC)
I decided to apply for the NLC, mainly due to the expansive laws in the Northern Territory, by the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. I thought it would be a great opportunity to compare the practical differences between the rights available in the NT, to the rights available to Indigenous people in other states. As well as that, the opportunity to work for such a hands-on agency was exciting; I knew I would be hard pressed to find another office that would be as involved in the day-to-day effect such rights would provide. While I was concerned about the financial aspect of having to support myself such a long way from home, both Aurora and the NLC stepped in to ensure that I could focus on my internship without the added fiscal pressures.
The John Skipper Kelly (JSK) Scholarship
I was incredibly lucky to be awarded the inaugural JSK Scholarship, offered to an Indigenous legal Aurora intern placed remotely. Without this scholarship, I would not have been able to afford to accept the internship at the NLC. Thanks to the administration by the Aurora Placements team, and the provision of the funds from the JSK Fund, which covered my accommodation, flights and living expenses, I did not have to work a second job while I was in Darwin to afford to stay. This meant that I was able to get more out of the internship, and participate more fully, both in the office and socially. To have Aurora organise not only my placement with the NLC, but also help me financially, was fantastic.
The atmosphere and staff
As soon as I landed, I knew I had picked the right place. Even though it was pouring with rain, one of the staff members (who I would be sharing a house with) collected me from the airport and made me feel immediately comfortable. The place that the NLC had organised for me to stay at was amazing; a large tropical house that always seemed to stay cool, even in the intense Darwin heat. My first day at the office was fantastic too, with another staff member going out of his way to ensure that both the other Aurora intern and I had a comprehensive induction. This ensured that when we got work, we didn’t flounder in how to access resources and could hit the ground running. The whole office had a great atmosphere, as everyone was ready to answer any question, no matter how busy they were. As well as that, they were more than willing to throw work at me until I said stop!
What I did at the NLC
As soon as I started, I was given some great projects to work on. One thing I loved about the NLC was the fact that they worked on a project basis. This enabled me to understand what tasks were involved from start to finish, and how every step fit together. I worked on research tasks, putting together leases and gaining a good understanding of their requirements. I also was given the opportunity to sit in on consultations between both clients and businesses, and to go on country to obtain evidence. As well as this, I was given the fantastic opportunity to work on a major piece of litigation, which was invaluable.
The NLC far surpassed my expectations of what my internship would be like. Even though I was given a great deal of warning about the possibility of being involved in some mundane tasks, I found I was given intellectually stimulating tasks much more often than the usual printing and filing. The great thing about NLC is they actually really want to use the skills that the interns have obtained in law school, rather than just using them as an extra set of hands. As well as this, to work in such a practically minded and intensive office was an amazing experience, and one I would thoroughly recommend.
Altogether, my experience in Darwin is not one I am likely to forget. During the 4 week placement, I could feel myself growing, both personally and professionally. I found that my skills learnt in law school were both definitely sufficient, and definitely not enough! Watching the application of the Northern Territory’s quite extensive laws, and the practical difficulties that impede their application demonstrated to me what I had suspected; while something may look clear and efficient on paper, generally there are practical difficulties that will come from left field. It encouraged me to think more critically about the laws I come into contact with, and remember that behind the laws, it is just ordinary people who are there to administer, challenge and organise the lives of people affected by them.