Philippa Jones

Barristers/Legal Firms
Winter 2016

We all know practical experience is an important addition to a law degree, in particular for those of us wanting to practice law. Whether you undertake it at the UniSA Legal Advice Clinic or through internships and volunteering, experience is valuable to learn, and then improve your ability to put into practice the knowledge learnt throughout your degree. This article will provide information on the Aurora Internship Program and will give some insight into the Program through my experience.

The Aurora Internship Program places students and graduates into internships with organisations that are involved in the Indigenous sector. Placements can be undertaken all around Australia and in a range of different organisations including those with a legal, native title, research, cultural heritage and policy focus.

For my internship I was placed with Adelaide barrister, Mr Andrew Collett, AM. Andrew practices in areas of law including Aboriginal issues, workers compensation, discrimination, personal injury and administrative law. He has been involved in historical cases including the Traditional Owners of the Maralinga Lands compensation claims arising from the radioactive contamination of their land, the first South Australian ‘stolen generation’ action, and counsel for the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement concerning the Aboriginal issues rising from the Hindmarsh Island Bridge.

While interning with Andrew I worked in a range of areas of law including discrimination, personal injury, stolen generation compensation claims, administrative law, and trusts. I attended meetings with clients, instructing solicitors, witnesses and expert witnesses, attended hearings in the Industrial Relations Court, Supreme Court and District Court, attended mediations and conferences, completed research and drafted documents. I gained an understanding of what it might be like to be a barrister; fast paced, with an immense amount of responsibility on your shoulders. For some clients the barrister is their last resort. They are relying on your knowledge and actions, perhaps to right an injustice, ensure their rights are maintained and/or help give them a new start. This was something that made a big impression on me throughout my internship.

Working with a barrister gave me my first contact with a brief. For those of you that have not come across one before, this is a collection of documents, both written and collected by the instructing solicitor about the matter. It contains all the information the instructing solicitor has gained on the matter. These can be hundreds of pages long and can contain information on the most private information about a client. It was a strange feeling, not only reading these briefs, but also, after reading them, to then meet the client, as I felt like I knew them personally despite never having met them before.

I would like to thank Andrew and the Aurora Placements team for giving me this opportunity, from which I have gained many skills and a lot of knowledge. I would recommend the Aurora Internship Program to anyone interested in gaining valuable practical experience in law, policy development and research – with an Indigenous focus.