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DENISE JOHNSSON

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DENISE JOHNSSON

MY EXPERIENCE AT NAAFLS

I started as a volunteer with NAAFLS in April 2013. I had 35 days in the Darwin office and 25 in the Katherine office.

As I studied almost exclusively on line, dealing with virtual people, I was nervous about my placement with real people. I needn’t have been. The staff is friendly and supportive and always happy to answer the numerous questions I had. I was kept busy with interesting research tasks and was involved in meetings and conversations about clients and other legal issues.

NAAFLS is an outreach service so almost all clients live in remote communities. In the Northern Territory, remote really means remote. The solicitors follow the bush court circuit spending 2 to 4 days at a time in the various communities visiting clients, taking instructions and appearing in court. I tagged along on 2 community visits with travel involving small planes and four-wheel drives. We sat under trees with clients and interpreters, met with other remote service providers and spoke to community members at dusty shops, busy council offices and amazing art centres.

The Darwin office solicitors also attend court in Darwin giving volunteers the opportunity to observe justice at an orderly but seemingly frantic, pace. All child protection matters are heard in Darwin and it has been a privilege to be able to observe the normally closed court.

The Katherine office, despite being really busy, is also friendly and supportive. Clients drop in when visiting town and many matters are dealt with in the local court. In fact, I made my first appearance in the Katherine court (with lots of support and guidance by Kate and Marina). Their remote communities are reached by 4 wheel drive so you can really appreciate the beauty of this vast land and understand the oft used phrase ‘the tyranny of distance’.

Anyone can mark time doing their placement safely in a white bread, latte sipping southern city office. If you want a different experience – a challenge, leave your comfort zone and volunteer with NAAFLS. Bring your camera!