Author: Lydia Ganci
As I approach the end of my degree, questions about what areas of law I intend to practice have begun to circulate. Concerning for my career trajectory, I have struggled to answer this question with any sense of certainty. I know that I want use my legal skills in a way which impacts on the community but for a long time was unsure where to look or how to start. Fortunately, a friend suggested that I apply for the Aurora Internship Program.
The Aurora Internship Program offers a variety of internships within Indigenous organisations in law, social science, health and welfare. Consequently, the Program works to solve two constraints on the social justice sector: giving students and graduates practical experience and a pathway into the sector while providing support and resources to often underfunded essential organisations. Additionally, the Aurora Internships team were all so passionate about their work, providing us interns with all the information needed confidently approach our internships.
I was fortunate enough to be selected to complete an internship at Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT (ALS) in their Wollongong Office. I completed two weeks online due to the coronavirus restrictions and three weeks in the ALS Wollongong office. In the online part of my internship, I researched family law matters to be collated in a database for future use. This was an excellent opportunity to put the research skills I had acquired in my degree to practical use while also contributing to the long-term practice of the ALS.
Subsequently, I was lucky enough to travel to Wollongong and work in the ALS Care and Protection practice. This work was primarily representing Aboriginal parents whose children have been removed by the State. Unsurprisingly, in this area, many of the clients were going through significant trauma and hardship, both their children being removed and the circumstances causing this to occur. On almost a daily basis, I was confronted by my own ignorance. While I knew that there was a delay in the Courts, I did not know the human impact of a six-month adjournment has on a family. While I had studied the obligations of the Court in domestic violence matters, I was unaware of the challenges victims themselves face when trying to preserve their parental responsibility. This work could be confronting and emotionally challenging. However, my own hesitations were always overcome by the knowledge that our work was having an immediate effect on the families navigating the legal system and its challenges.
Another important aspect of the internship was being able to work in an office alongside lawyers and other paralegals. I was trusted with interesting work: attending Court, drafting letters and affidavits and other research and administrative tasks. Everyone at ALS was so welcoming and passionate that it was impossible not to enjoy my time in the office. Additionally, having been through the Melbourne lockdown and several online internships, it was so rewarding being in the office, obtaining immediate answers to questions, and having conversations with the lawyers about their experiences, careers and why they choose to work for the ALS.
Overall, my internship fortified my desire to work in the Indigenous legal sector and provided me with a great starting point to do so. I would recommend the Aurora Internship Program to anyone who is looking for a pathway into the not-for-profit or Indigenous sector but is unsure where to start. There is a wealth of support and experience within the Program, providing interns with the foundations to confidently take the next steps of their careers in this area.
Applications for the summer 2021/22 round will be open in August – subject to funding.