Brooke Greenwood and Riki Sutherland completed a legal internship with the ALRC in Semester 1 2012. Legal Offcier, Khanh Hoang, spoke with them about their experiences as ALRC interns.
Khanh Hoang, ALRC Legal Officer (KH): Hello, and welcome to another podcast for the ALRC. My name is Khanh Hoang and I’m a legal officer at the Commission. Today I have two bright, young and good looking interns sitting next to me, Riki Sutherland and Brooke Greenwood. We’re just going to talk a little bit today about their experiences as interns at the ALRC. So, I might just start by asking you both where you are at with your studies, and what made you choose to do an internship here.
Riki Sutherland (RS): I finished my studies half way through last year, my undergrad law degree, and now I’m doing the GDLP, and the reason I chose to come here was because I had some time off work and thought it would be a really great experience to spend my holidays getting a bit of practical experience at the ALRC.
KH: We must have done something right if you chose to come here in your holidays …
Brooke Greenwood (BG): I’ve just finished my fourth year of my undergraduate law degree, and I have another year and a half to go, and I was really looking to get some practical legal experience in a workplace, but I wasn’t so interested in doing a corporate clerkship like a lot of my friends, and I was wanting to do something in an organisation whose work I really admired, and that had a social justice bent, and I picked the ALRC.
KH: And certainly I think a lot of the work we do has some kind of social justice bent – not always, but a lot of the time it is floating in the background … the policy is really what makes this place special in terms of that mix between law and policy, and even though it is mainly legal, at the end of the day the recommendations are all based on policy, so I think it gives students an idea to come in and see how policy translates into law, and the other way around as well, when you actually get to see, or go talk to stakeholders and see how the law is actually working on the ground and whether it meets up with policy as well.
So, what have you both been doing since you’ve been here? Can you talk a bit about what Inquiry you’re working on, the kind of work you’ve been given?
BG: Well, we’ve been given all sorts of work, very diverse, so I think – what would you say, Riki? – we’ve been kept busy, and we’ve never been bored because the work keeps changing…
RS: Yeah, we’ve been working on a lot of research, a lot of international research, also domestic …
KH: You’ve both been working on the Classification Inquiry?
RS: Yes, we have.
KH: Do you want to talk a little bit about what that Inquiry is about, for the people out there?
RD: It’s into the current classification system in Australia and considerations for reform …
BG: And in particular, from my perspective, about adapting a classification and censorship system for an age where technology is changing at such a rapid pace that our regulatory system has just become completely outdated and is in fundamental need of change, so it’s been really interesting to try and get our heads around all that technological lingo as well as the legal framework.
KH: And in terms of the research that’s been given to you, have you found that the skills that you’ve been taught at law school have been applicable in this environment, and how well has that served you?
BG: Absolutely. I’d say just general legal research skills have been really helpful, knowing how to read legislation and understand it, and I think what most of the legal officers have been looking for when they set us a task is a neat and concise summary, so the writing skills, I think, that you learn in law school about keeping things really tight and neat, getting as much information in as few words as possible.
RS: I agree, and I’d also say in terms of referencing, just knowing that you have to reference everything.
KH: And how’s it been working with each other and in terms of fitting into a team? How have you found that experience of working with a whole lot of people in one team … how’s that been?
RS: I think it’s been great. We’ve been really lucky, I guess, in that we really get on well, and we got on well with Scott, the other intern, so it was all fairly relaxed and everyone at the ALRC has been really really helpful and friendly, and given really good directions.
BG: Yeah, I think it was a great surprise at how welcoming people were here, and how much they included us in the processes and discussion around this Review. So, from the very first day we sat in on a meeting of the legal team working on the Classification Review and got to be involved in hearing their general banter and debate about recommendations and the Final Report going out, and that was, just, it’s a real privilege, and I think, from what I’ve heard from my friends in other internships, it’s pretty unusual that you get so much access to people and get included in such a great way.
KH: And generally our interns, the work they do generally ends up somewhere in the Report, or in a Discussion Paper or Issues Paper. So, for those of you listening out there, we try as much as we can to give interns work that is meaningful, both for their development and also for our own work purposes. I know Brooke, you’ve been working on a couple of research memos on some international stuff … do you want to talk a little bit about that?
BG: Yes, sure. I worked on a little memo on the European Union’s audio visual media services directive, and as a sort of model for the sorts of things we could implement in Australia, and it’s been really interesting, and I hope that it will be useful in the report.
RS: I’ve just been working today on the international perspective, something about classification systems in other common law countries like the US, Canada, New Zealand and the UK, and trying to find points of similarity with the Australian system, but also points of difference, and that’s been really interesting.
KH: So you guys would definitely recommend this experience to other law students?
BG: Yeah, absolutely.
RS: I definitely would. The breadth of experience we got across the whole range of the Inquiry has been really good.
BG: And seeing how this organisation works and how well it works, it’s been great.
KH: Excellent. Thank you.
Well, that’s just to give you a little bit of an idea of what interning at the ALRC is like. If you would like to know more, about our internship program, there are a couple of other podcasts floating around on our website – www.alrc.gov.au – and I’d encourage you to go and check it out.