Leah Lillingston

Barristers/Legal Firms
Summer 2017

My second placement was with Barrister Andrew Collett in my hometown of Adelaide.  For the first three weeks of my placement I was predominately assisting Andrew with his final submissions for the Goolarabooloo native title claim.  This involved reading through the claimants' statements and court transcripts to find relevant evidence for the submissions, checking the accuracy of references to the transcripts and witness statements, proof reading and some formatting.  I learnt much about cultural heritage which expanded on my experience at GLSC and the few Aboriginal cases I had read at University; including how the women’s and men’s cultural business is dealt with in litigation.  The Goolarabooloo case involved men’s business which was restricted to men only, and as such I was not able to read the restricted transcripts and related documents. 

During my time with Andrew I was grateful to be able to attend a Maralinga bi-annual meeting which included representatives from Maralinga, the Commonwealth Government and the State Government.  This was an insightful experience into how such meetings are conducted, the issues that were raised and how the parties proposed to deal with them.

I also attended and took notes during a telephone conference for a discrimination case where a third party had taken an interest in the proceedings.  The case involves the impact of onerous new laws on a disadvantaged Aboriginal group, and I was shocked to learn about some of the exploitation occurring in rural areas that nobody seems to be aware of.

With the Goolarabooloo submissions finished by my final week with Andrew, I was free to participate in the Flinders University Summer School topic ‘Cultural Heritage and the Law’.  The topic is taught by Andrew, archaeologist and anthropologist Amy Roberts and Central Arrente woman and lawyer, Leanne Liddle.  Whilst the topic is an elective for Archaeology students, there were a few law students in attendance with a view to opening the topic as an elective for law students in the future.  I learnt a great deal about cultural heritage on top of what I have already learnt during my two Aurora Internships, such as the reasons why Aboriginals do not speak the name of a person who has passed away, the benefits of fires to the environment and how the Aboriginals have been doing this for many years, and a great deal more about the struggles faced by Aboriginal people in their fight for equality since settlement.  I was honoured to hear from many engaging guest speakers which included the Honourable Justice John Mansfield (retired Federal Court Judge who I also had the pleasure of meeting over lunch with Andrew during week 3) and a number of Anthropologists, Aboriginal people and other individuals who have worked in native title.  There were also a number of Aboriginal students in attendance who shared their experiences and opinions on a range of matters.  During my Aurora placements and particularly during the summer school topic I was given an insight into the injustice and discrimination faced by Aboriginal people that most Law Schools do not teach, and I was disappointed to learn that not all law schools teach include lectures and assessment on native title.

My Aurora Internships have given me an insight into the challenging yet rewarding career of working in native title that I would not have otherwise experienced.  I would encourage all law students who have an interest in social justice or Aboriginal issues to partake in the Aurora Internship Program.  Whilst this is voluntary work, a small handful of the organisations will provide you with a daily stipend which can help with the every-day expenses for those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.  The internships are a great way to gain exposure to the inequalities and struggles faced by Aboriginal Australians every day.  In my combined 6 weeks of placement I learnt much about Aboriginal laws and customs, devastating stories of separation and disconnection with the land, and stories leaving me in awe of the spiritual connection and love for the land that others cannot begin to fathom.

For more information about the Aurora Internship Program check out their website: http://auroraproject.com.au/about-internship-program.  Applications for the winter 2017 round close on Monday 3 April 2017 and will be open in August for the summer 2017/18 round.