Carla Scarfi

Barristers/Legal Firms
Winter 2016

As a proud Wiradjuri women, I am very passionate about furthering the course of Indigenous people in my studies in law at the University of Melbourne. When the opportunity was presented by the Aurora Internship Programt to work with Susan Phillips, a barrister with chambers in St James Hall and expert in native title law I was immediately interested. While having not been exposed to this area of law in any significant way during my Juris Doctor degree, I was very eager to gain first-hand experience in practice.

Travelling to Sydney to undertake the internship, I was inspired by the new environment and challenges of working outside my usual surroundings. Working with Susan was an opportunity to discover not only more about the profession but also about myself and the direction that I would like to take my degree.

During the internship I was very stimulated by the variety of work within Susan’s field. I spent a great portion of my time researching and writing a paper on Aboriginal Cultural Heritage. The task required me to put my reseach skills acquired through my degree to good use and prepare a legal analysis on the current postiton of the law on Aboriginail Cultural Heritage. I also researched the area and current position of the jurisprudence on accrued jursidiction in the Federal Court in relation to the Natve Title Act. Susan was able to use this research when we attended Court in Brisbane. On a daily basis I was able to build on my knowledge and contribute to Susan’s work in a meaningful way. With a great amount of autonomy I enjoyed researching aspects of the law that would contribute to Susan’s active cases. I also was foruntate enough to accompany Susan to Brisbane to attend Court. Whilst attending Court I was exposed to how native title works in practice as well as hear how other native title applications were progressing. 

Susan’s colleagues were very welcoming and generous in sharing their own experiences to enrich my experience. On some occasions I was able to assist in cross tasking to expand my exposure to other matters and fields of practice. The chambers fostered a collaborative environment to share ideas about cases and current issues impacting upon native title laws.

I also enjoyed the professional events I attended with Susan during which I was able to meet a variety of experts in the native title sector and other interns. This included attending a Sir Maurice Byers Lecture presented by Chief Justice French titled “Legal Change - The Role of Advocates”.  It was encouraging to learn about the different pathways to law and observe the great cross section of barristers practicing in areas of law that support the Indigenous cause. Many of the contacts that I made I hope to maintain in the next chapter of my career.

Having been inspired by my internship with Susan, I now have stronger sense of career direction and a desire for working with native title issues. This experience has been key to shaping my future in law and the decisions that I am about to make in relation to my own pathway. I highly recommend an internship working in a chambers that offers the support and encouragement that Susan has provided. The opportunity to travel to Sydeny to undertake my internship would not have been possible without the support of the JSK Fund. The support relieved the financial burden of travelling interstate and the associated costs such as accommodation and living expenses. I am very grateful to the JSK Fund and to have been part of the Aurora Project’s Internship Program as a defining part of my journey within the legal profession.

Applications for summer 2016/17 internships via the Aurora Internship Program are now open through 26 August.  For more information, please visit: