With the final year of my law degree approaching, I decided it was time to seriously consider applying for a legal internship. I had been aware of the Aurora Internship Program from as early on as 2012 when I first began my Bachelor of Arts degree, during which time I took various linguistics courses. Many of these courses concerned Australian Indigenous languages and I had found them particularly interesting.
I applied for the Aurora Internship Program through both the legal and anthropological streams based on my ongoing interest in Indigenous language policy, as well as a desire to learn more about native title law and land law more broadly. Initially interviewed as a prospective anthropology intern, it was much to my surprise when I was offered a place with the North Queensland Land Council’s legal team commencing 20 November 2017.
Under the supervision of NQLC’s Deputy Principal Legal Officer, Mr Gregory Bell, I had the opportunity to assist with a whole range of exciting and meaningful legal work – from in-depth research into Queensland land law and trusts; through to meeting with clients, drafting letters and submissions, and assisting with day-to-day office administration.
Host Organisation – North Queensland Land Council (Cairns)
Perhaps one of the most satisfying aspects of the internship experience was having the chance to get to know the team at NQLC.
From the start I was made to feel very welcome and was regularly sought out by other lawyers and anthropologists who would offer me extra tasks and provide general advice in relation to the work I was given. I learnt important lessons from the discussions we had regarding legal practice and lawyering ethics, as well as the practical realities of native title law and the challenges that can arise within it.
My supervisor was always willing to provide me with work to complete and it was motivating to observe the way in which he conducted himself in a professional yet calm manner – particularly in his interactions with clients and in meetings. Furthermore, the legal assistants, Maddie and Cherona, were very supportive during my time in the office and made my placement with NQLC that much more enjoyable.
Tasks & Achievements
Although I had the chance to complete many different tasks over the four weeks of my placement, there were some that particularly stood out for me. Prior to commencing the internship, I could not have imagined having the experiences that I did, and I have without doubt come away from the internship feeling more confident and prepared for my future career.
One of the most fascinating and intense activities that I was involved in was to assist with an Annual General Meeting for an Aboriginal Corporation and an ILUA (“Indigenous Land Use Agreement”) community consultation meeting.
My supervisor and I drove 700 km out of Cairns to attend the meetings and Mr Bell was ultimately tasked with the role of chairing the AGM while I assisted with member registration and the voting process. During the ILUA consultation meeting, however, my role was to observe and take minutes.
The two meetings ran all day with members and native title holders alike discussing, debating and agreeing upon a whole range of important issues relating to their native title. It was inspiring to observe the passion and interest that those present showed for their native title rights and interests.
During my first week of the placement, I was lucky enough to take part in a community meeting and an authorisation meeting in Mareeba, both of which form a necessary part of commencing the native title claims process.
I assisted with the organisation of the venue, registration of attendees, and by providing those present with a microphone during discussions. Throughout the meeting process, I took note of the way in which the lawyers were required to explain the legal complexities of the claims process in simple terms to a large audience. It is certainly a useful skill to be able to communicate technical information in a comprehensible way and something that I would be mindful of in future practice.
Overall I found the internship to be an extremely rewarding yet challenging experience and it far exceeded my initial expectations. I could not have been happier with my choice of Host organisation and would highly recommend that other students and graduates seek a placement through the Aurora Internship Program. I would also like to thank NQLC and its staff for hosting me and providing me with such a valuable experience.