Caitlin Marshall

Barristers/Legal Firms
Summer 2015

In their Discussion Paper 82 on the Review of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) the ALRC stated that the law of native title is complex, it requires ‘progressively technical interpretation’, has high evidentiary burdens, requires high levels of resources, often takes many years and that reforms are needed to not only ensure claims are rigorously tested but that the central inquiry of the recognition and protection of native title is upheld.  

This is native title and this is what inspired me to partake in an Aurora Legal Internship.  This along with my university, Charles Darwin University (NT), that has an extensive history of dedication in delivering subjects on a diverse range of social justice and indigenous subjects and lecturers passionate and skilled to deliver them. 

I was lucky to be placed with a small legal firm in Adelaide, Campbell Law, whose Principal has a long history of dedication and commitment to native title issues.  I was even luckier to be placed with Campbell Law because they were (and remain) in the midst of one of South Australia’s largest native title claims on behalf of the Kaurna people.  

Generally, my role was to assist the firm with the legal research component.  This was a very important role because it formed a large part of the legal foundation of the argumentative direction.  

Although research was vast it was never boring.  I reviewed the upcoming ALRC’s recommendations to the Australian Government on the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), studied a plethora of key cases identifying connectivity and extinguishment issues and formed opinions on where the law of native title is heading and the relativity of them to the nuances of the case specific.  I created a time line of relevant statutes since South Australia’s inception and read applicable journal articles.  I looked at international jurisprudence, especially that of Canada.  I read the mostly shocking historical accounts of what actually occurred and the irreversible impacts that has had on the individuals and cultures concerned.  This heightened my understanding of the key legal implications of connectivity and extinguishment when trying to establish a native title claim.  I also gained an understanding for the complexities of what is actually required from an anthropological perspective.  The process is holistic. 

It wasn’t all reading however!  I attended the landmark South Australian Federal Court decision in which the Barngarla people were recognised as having native title (the story of extinguishment continues).   I attended a conference between Campbell Law and the State Crown.  I was allowed to attend the Case Management Conference at the Federal Court with the relevant interested parties and the Registrar of the Court and I had many wonderful debates and conversations with the solicitors of Campbell Law.  Campbell Law generously allowed me to also attend a lecture provided by the Law Society of South Australia on Indigenous People and the Constitution. 

The Aurora Internship opened my eyes and broadened my mind.  This is not an easy confession.  It gave me the opportunity to push myself out of my normal areas of comfort.  It created a fire in my belly to follow through on what I have learned and to remain attentive and keep abreast of the issues and changes to the law.  The experience enlightened me to the cost and time of litigation and to the challenges of not only our Indigenous land owners but those who act in their capacity as legal professionals to assist in that fight on their behalf.  

Campbell Law was incredibly generous to give me their time and experience through the Aurora Internship.  They provided a pragmatic and practical approach to the legal issues but also shared and transferred their passionate approach to their work.   I wish them all the best in continuing their work on this claim and to hearing about their successful outcome for their clients.  It was a privilege to work with them and to contribute to their efforts. 

The Aurora Internship Program is a Government funded organisation (previously also funded by Rio Tinto) created from a report on the professional development of native title lawyers and Native Title Representative Bodies.  It has, however, grown to support many other organisations who are involved in social justice issues, research and policy development, including private legal firms, barristers and other organisations working to support the Indigenous sector.  Aurora’s aim is simple.  It provides support to these organisations that are often limited by resources both financially and in personnel, by way of placing students and graduates with them to assist them pursue their contribution to Indigenous issues.  The benefits to all parties are obvious. 

The need for quality interns is ongoing.  Aurora does not only offer summer placements, but also winter placements.  Don’t miss out on this incredibly valuable experience that will, without a doubt, provide you with an experience that will not only  extend you as a student, but will leave you feeling that you have contributed to something extraordinarily important.  

Applications for the winter 2015 round of internships will be open from 2nd March through to 27th March 2015.  

Please visit for more information on how to apply for a chance to partake in this valuable experience.