I was recently afforded the invaluable opportunity to undertake an internship through the Aurora Internship Program. The Program facilitates individual professional development by offering career experiences in the Indigenous sector and, in turn, strengthens the capacity of Indigenous sector organisations by attracting Indigenous and non-Indigenous talent.
During my law degree, I developed a keen interest in intellectual property (IP) law. I expanded my knowledge in this area by completing an international course on copyright. It was through this course that I identified a significant gap in my learning in respect of the protection of Indigenous cultural and intellectual property (ICIP). I sought to rectify this by undertaking a placement with Terri Janke and Company.
The experience far exceeded my expectations. I met the gap in my knowledge in the important area of ICIP, by working alongside and learning from the leader in the field, Terri Janke. I developed an understanding of the failings of the existing legal system to recognise ICIP. I also learnt about strategies for protecting ICIP, specifically through drawing upon existing IP laws, coupled with ICIP Protocols and supported by contracts. I also developed an appreciation of the important role ICIP Protocols play in shaping global best practice standards for organisations engaging with Indigenous persons, communities and groups, as well as ICIP.
The team at Terri Janke and Company were incredibly supportive. Within the first hour of commencement, I was invited to attend a meeting with an ASX listed company. That meeting set the tone for the entire placement. By demonstrating confidence in me from the start, I was greatly encouraged to rise to the occasion. My supervisor, Terri, is my new role model in the legal profession. She is not only a technically excellent lawyer and genuinely passionate about what she does, but she also demonstrates client care. I was also paired with an excellent mentor, Beth, who always took the time to explain tasks to be performed, so that I could produce a deliverable close to what was required. I particularly enjoyed the social good aspect of the work. By ensuring that Indigenous Australians are not taken advantage of in bargaining processes, empowered as to their rights and fairly remunerated, that has flow on consequences in terms of their wellbeing and ability to access better lifestyles and health care systems. That in turn assists in the broader scheme, to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. A key takeaway lesson was the importance of looking beyond strict Western law to cultural laws and practices.
Nature of work
I had the opportunity to engage in a broad range of work. I met with clients to discuss Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) and ICIP Protocols. I distilled legal concepts in preparation for a workshop on Indigenous Artists and the Law and attended workshops. I prepared a memorandum of advice on the implied term to reimburse in the employment contract, its application to a particular client scenario and recommended action moving forward. I conducted research into appropriate ways to publish works critical of Indigenous traditions or cultures for an ICIP Protocol and drafted a section of that Protocol based on my findings. I prepared a memorandum on the voluntary winding up of a company, the process and liability of directors. I drafted contracts and licences allocating intellectual property rights. I prepared a memorandum on the considerations solicitors must bear in mind in succession planning, including the importance of testing for capacity. I drafted general and enduring powers of attorney and appointments of enduring guardian. I participated in client meetings and conferences. I prepared a memorandum on the steps to take where a client is deemed to lack capacity in succession planning. I advised on a deed of settlement, retention of ICIP and the legality of restraint of trade clauses. I reviewed and edited a RAP. I drafted an ICIP Protocol. I also conducted a contract review of various agreements and articulated why, through an ICIP lens, certain IP, moral rights and other clauses were unsuitable.
The experience was rewarding on both a professional and personal level. I was afforded the opportunity to build on my knowledge base, significantly expand my existing skill set and refine my technical proficiency. I particularly enjoyed the hybrid nature of the work, which required me to draw upon interdisciplinary knowledge, legal advisory and research skills and teaching methods.
I strongly encourage anyone wishing to broaden their knowledge and/or pursue a career in the Indigenous sector, to undertake an internship through the Aurora Internship Program.