Three students from Charles Darwin University’s School of Law and Business are gaining work experience this semester with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Association.
Second year students Carl O’Connor, Jeremy McGrath and Saleha Awan each spend one day a week with the Aboriginal legal service, assisting lawyers in the preparation of cases, undertaking further research and observing the process in court.
‘In the past law students helping out has been very much on an ad hoc basis,’ says Peggy Dwyer, NAAJA’s senior solicitor and managing lawyer of the Darwin criminal section.
‘Now we’ve set up a more formal structure that will see even more law students on work experience.’ A fourth lawyer is soon expected to join the trio on their placements with NAAJA.
Ms Dwyer says the law students have already proved very helpful in working on cases, particularly since NAAJA does not have legal clerks to do much of the research work.
‘It’s mutually beneficial,’ she says. ‘The students are genuinely helpful and they are learning a lot about Aboriginal cases.’
She said NAAJA was hopeful that the students could also attend the bush courts where Aboriginal cases were heard.
CDU Law lecturer Michael O’Donnell said it was important for law students to undertake both theoretical and practical learning in their studies.
‘This arrangement with NAAJA allows this to occur while providing for practical social justice outcomes in our community,’ he said.
‘The level of Indigenous people’s interaction with the criminal justice system in the Northern Territory is of concern to all, and the School of Law and Business at CDU hopes this will play a part in changing this situation.’
Students Saleha Awan and Carl O’Connor said the experience of working with the lawyers was stimulating, and that they had already learnt a lot about Indigenous culture.
‘It’s a bit daunting so see people who really know the law in action, and how quickly they can think on their feet,’ said Carl.