People should definitely apply for this internship and really throw themselves into the experience.
ANU College of Law student Sienna Lake, like many in her cohort, has a head for law and a heart for social justice.
Last year she was awarded the Aurora Internship and over summer she gained on-the-job experience in a legal office while providing much-needed help to the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA)
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Sienna worked for six weeks in NAAJA’s criminal section and found the experience revealing, inclusive and at times unexpectedly autonomous.
While there, she learned what many in the rural and regional legal profession have long known. If you work in an area where the resources are limited, you will find countless opportunities to grow your skillset.
“It was full on but I really enjoyed it,” she said.
“I was always allowed to come down to court and after the first couple of weeks I was doing prison visits alone. I was just really involved and included in the work.”
The timing of Sienna’s internship provided an opportunity to watch one of the country’s biggest current legal cases unfold.
“In the last couple of weeks that I was there the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory began so I was able to spend time working on that,” she said.
As well as gaining practical skills, the internship opened Sienna’s eyes to the interaction between Aboriginal people and the legal system, and how that impacts the disproportionate levels of Indigenous incarceration.
“I think the thing that struck me the most while I was there was the prevalence of white lawyers,” she said.
“In the local court on a Monday morning there would be several Aboriginal people waiting for their legal aid lawyers to come to see them and for many, English was their second language.
"They could be sitting in their own trial and not really know what’s going on, even with an interpreter. The lawyers and judges try to be inclusive but it still felt uncomfortable and really showed a disconnect in the legal system up there.”
As an Arts/Law student majoring in Development Studies, Sienna has long been interested in anthropology, social justice and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, however the Aurora Internship provided her with an opportunity to experience that work from a legal perspective.
“I’ve done a few Indigenous studies subjects but I was really ready to get out of the classroom and get a real-world perspective,” she said.
“People should definitely apply for this internship and really throw themselves into the experience. You might be placed in Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra, or you could be placed in a remote community, you can nominate preferences.”
The benefit of applying through the Aurora Project is the monitoring, support and evaluation the internship provides, however Sienna’s advice for students who miss out on Aurora was to volunteer for an Aboriginal Legal Service anyway.
“There are so many opportunities if you contact organisations that need resources but have the capacity to take on volunteers.”
Applications for the summer 2017/18 Aurora Internship open on Monday 31 July.