Over the summer break I completed a Human Rights Internship in Timor-Leste at the NGO, Asisténsia Legal ba Feto no Labarik (ALFeLa), an organisation that provides legal aid to women and children throughout Timor-Leste. It has been one of the most rewarding subjects I have undertaken while at University. The Human Rights Internship was a fantastic learning opportunity to gain legal skills and be immersed in another culture.
I was located in Dili, Timor-Leste’s capital and the district of Baucau, three hours from the capital of Dili. The Dili office consisted of nine lawyers, while the Baucau office had two lawyers. ALFeLa have four offices located in Dili, Baucau, Suai and Oecusse.
Each day was different and could consist of travelling up to four hours to any of the districts to conduct interviews, visit the police, women and children’s shelters, the public prosecutor, attend court , mediations, negotiations, client referral meetings, the Asia Foundation, the Ministry of Social Solidarity, legal training and case management sessions.
While the work was challenging and sometimes confronting, I was in constant admiration of the strength of my Timorese colleagues. Each person I met had something to teach me. Two of lessons I learnt were that nothing is black and white and it is important to get perspective. This experience has broadened my awareness of the relationship between international law, state law and customary law and how this can have an impact on the administration of human rights.
For students considering a Human Rights Internship, from my experience if you are up for an adventure, hard work, want an opportunity to learn, want to live in another culture and want to meet some inspiring people, then a Human Rights Internship might be for you.
I would like to thank Dr Laura Grenfell for her continual guidance and support throughout the internship and for establishing the Human Rights Internship.