Kimberley internship inspires student to help vulnerable

2 April 2015

An internship in the Western Australian Kimberley region has inspired postgraduate student Stephanie Triefus to pursue a career in legal and social services to help Indigenous people in a remote Australian community.

The 23-year-old Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice student recently returned from a six-week internship at the Kimberley Community Legal Service (KCLS) in Kununurra, WA.

During her time there, she helped with everything from the day-to-day running of the centre through to helping clients out with various problems.

"It really exceeded my expectations because, as a student, you do a lot of internships and volunteering and it's quite easy to just be a nuisance and have people who are very busy and not able to give you things to do. At KCLS it wasn't like that at all. They had me involved in the day-to-day work of the legal centre," Triefus said.

"Every Monday I went to Wyndham for the Outreach Service there. I also went on a three day trip to Halls Creek in Warmun, and I also ended up going to Kalumburu for a day.

"Triefus says the six-week internship, organised by non-government organisation The Aurora Project, helped open her eyes to the problems facing Indigenous Australians in remote communities.

"The issues facing the Kimberley are things like distances. The distances are just huge - roads get flooded, communications are a problem, there's no mobile reception in a lot of places. The population have experienced issues such as stolen generations and wages," she said.

"I studied Indigenous history and you touch on it in your law degree but it's not a large feature, so I was definitely looking for a more emergent experience."

While there, Triefus says she helped a lady who had four separate insurance policies taken out against her name. She only knew about two of them.

"She thought one had been cancelled and it wasn't. She is on the pension and was paying $70 a week for these policies. They just make it very difficult over the phone to cancel them and they're very expensive for what they are and they had been sold to her even though she didn't really need them.

"So that wasn't strictly legal work, it was probably more social work. But I really enjoyed spending time with her and getting to know her."

As a result of the experience, Triefus says she wants to work in a remote community legal centre.

"This experience was valuable to achieving that goal because as a young lawyer, anyone would agree with me, the jobs that are advertised, you need experience and you can't get a job without it," she said.

Find out more about The Aurora Project at http://www.auroraproject.com.au/