Lessons learned on the Top End

Lessons learned on the Top End
Clare McBride-Kelly (second from right) found that ANU Law Reform and Social Justice initiatives prepared her well for her internship with the Aurora Education Foundation.

I witnessed how the provision of clear and tailored legal education can act as a bridge between the complex, ever-changing legal world, and the lives of students, families and communities.

Editor’s note: Clare McBride-Kelly, a Bachelor of Laws(Hon)/Asian Studies student, recently completed a summer internship with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), as part of the ANU Law Internship (LAWS6230) course. This course provides ANU students with the opportunity to put their learning into action and carry out a research project in a legal professional workplace. Clare has written the following reflective assessment about her experiences as an intern at NAAJA, an organisation that delivers high quality and culturally competent legal services to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.


This summer, I had the transformative opportunity to take part in the Aurora Internship Program at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) in Darwin, placed with the Community Legal Education (CLE) team. NAAJA provides culturally safe, high quality, specialist legal services to Aboriginal people living in the Top End. I deeply appreciate the time that my supervisor, John Rawnsley, and the CLE team dedicated to training me, expanding my understanding of emerging areas of law reform and developing my practical legal skills and knowledge.

I was privileged to shadow numerous NAAJA legal education sessions with local community groups and schools. I witnessed how the provision of clear and tailored legal education can act as a bridge between the complex, ever-changing legal world, and the lives of students, families and communities. I also gained insight into how culturally safe and clear community legal education can operate as an upstream, preventive tool in combatting the over-incarceration of Indigenous Australians living in the Top End.

I was also honoured to shadow both criminal and civil lawyers at NAAJA, who cover a broad range of practise areas, united by their shared commitment to social justice. This allowed me to gain in-depth insights into the tasks that need to be completed in preparation for and during court cases.

Another component of my internship involved creating an extensive legal historical timeline of Darwin, documenting key legislation and case law produced in the Northern Territory since colonisation. This required a deep dive into historical textbooks, newspapers, legislative records and judicial decisions. This timeline will be used for NAAJA’s legal practicum courses. Students will read the legislation and caselaw provided within the timeline and then hear from numerous Larrakia leaders about Darwin’s history, highlighting the juxtaposition between the written law and it’s actual, enduring impact on Aboriginal people living in the Northern Territory.

I was deeply honoured to visit key historical sites in Darwin with the CLE team, where we read relevant legislation together and the team recounted their own family and communities lived experiences of these laws. I would like to thank the CLE team for the deep learning and education they offered me.

Thank you to my supervisor, John Rawnsley (GDLP '12), for your generous and insightful mentorship, sharing your specialist expertise in law reform, Australian history and health justice partnerships. Thank you to Aurora for making possible this transformative internship. Furthermore, the specialist teaching at the ANU College of Law and informative Law Reform and Social Justice initiatives prepared me well for this internship. I encourage any students interested in developing their legal skills and learning about the intersection of social justice and the law, to apply for an Aurora internship.

Applications for the winter 2021 round will be open from 8 through 26 March.


Learn more about the Aurora Internship Program, ANU Law Internship course (LAWS6230) and Law Reform and Social Justice at the ANU College of Law.

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team