Women's Legal Service - Isabella Johnston

Paralegal, Isabella Johnston, reports on her secondment to the Top End Women’s Legal Service and her experiences working with Indigenous women in Darwin.

Throughout November and December OF 2015, Isabella was seconded, as part of the Aurora Internship Project, to the Top End Women’s Legal Service (TEWLS) in Darwin. Isabella talks about working with TEWLS, where she concentrated on family law and domestic violence, as well as housing and tenancy.

The Aurora Project is an organisation involved in the legal professional needs of Native Title Representative Bodies, Indigenous education and Indigenous affairs more generally. Among these activities, it runs an internship program for legal students and graduates with various organisations working in native title, social science and human rights – all with an Indigenous focus.


About the Internship Program
The Program commenced in 2004 with the placement of legal interns at a limited number of NTRBs and other organisations working in the broader Indigenous sector. To address the needs of anthropology and research staff at NTRBs and PBCs, the Program expanded to include anthropology students and graduates in 2006 and other social science (namely archeology, cultural heritage, environmental management, human geography, history and sociology) students and graduates in 2007. More recently the Program accepts applications from applicants with a background in media/communications, business, health science and social work.

The Program places Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous students and graduates (including mature aged) in full-time unpaid 4 to 6 week internships, at over 130 organisations Australia-wide, all with an Indigenous focus, working in the area of:

  • Native title
  • Land rights
  • Policy development
  • Advocacy
  • Social justice
  • Social welfare
  • Human rights
  • Community development
  • Environmental policy

The Program offers candidates an opportunity to gain professional work experience and improve career opportunities available at NTRBs, PBCs and other organisations working in the broader Indigenous sector. It is aimed at candidates who are seeking work experience and a keen interest in native title, land rights, social justice, policy development and research, all with an Indigenous focus. An internship is a great way to gain exposure into the professional work environment and develop professional workplace skills. All placements are 4 – 6 week unpaid and are available in all major cities and some remote areas of Australia.

The Program not only provides much needed assistance to under-resourced Host organisations but also promotes career opportunities by raising awareness of the native title system and the broader Indigenous sector, attracting students and graduates to work in the sector. The quality of the interns is demonstrated by the eagerness of Aurora Hosts to retain alumni of the Program on a longer-term basis.

The Program is funded by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Just prior to the announcement of the 2 July election, PM&C extended Aurora’s funding through to the end of February 2017, with the intention to enter into a longer arrangement with Aurora through February 2019 (TBC).