UTAS

Internship gives students a different legal perspective

Two University of Tasmania law students have had the unique chance to experience Indigenous legal justice and law practice in the Northern Territory, thanks to the introduction of a new internship.

Awarded to fourth year University of Tasmania law students Zoey Dwyer and Bryanna Workman as part of the Law School’s new Clinical Legal Education stream, the one-month North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) internship gives students a chance to gain first-hand knowledge about social, political and legal challenges faced by Aboriginal Australians.

The students are also able to directly contribute to Aboriginal social and legal justice.

NAAJA works to provide culturally skilled Aboriginal legal services to Aboriginal people and their families in the Top End of the Northern Territory.

Both students had the opportunity to work in the criminal law division on real matters attending conventional and bush courts, and carrying out legal research under the supervision of the NAAJA lawyers in the local Katherine courts.

The arrangement is unique to the University of Tasmania and an important part of the Law School’s commitment to Indigenous social justice.

For the Tasmanian students this was a chance to think outside what they may perceive as a career in law.

Ms Dwyer who recently returned from the first internship said the experience was both challenging and very rewarding.

“Many of the clients couldn’t speak English very well and so at times communication was tough but it was a really good experience,” she said.

“I sat in on some hearings and pleas and I worked alongside the lawyers, helping them with whatever they wanted.”

Ms Dwyer said she hoped to one-day return to the Top End.

“The people there were so accommodating and friendly and I am so excited to one day return,” she said.

“I loved the experience and I feel it really opened my eyes to the types of opportunities out there for lawyers, if you’re willing to work hard and have a passion for what you do.”

Ms Workman said it was a rare opportunity for a different student experience.

“I decided to apply for this internship because it was a once in a lifetime chance to experience what it was like to be a lawyer in such a remote area,” she said.

“I was particularly intrigued by the bush courts in remote Aboriginal communities.”’  

Professor Maggie Walter, Pro Vice-Chancellor Aboriginal Research and Leadership said the internships gave students a chance to see the legal system through different eyes.

“This NAAJA internship has provided these non-Indigenous students from the Faculty of Law a unique opportunity to view the justice system from a very different space from their everyday life,” she said.

- Olive Chew, 4th year Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws student.

Image: Zoey Dwyer and Bryanna Workman

Published on: 08 Sep 2017 3:21pm