My time interning at Ninti One in Alice Springs, through the Aurora Internship Program, was adventurous, stimulating, and inspiring. Being half-way through a double degree in Law and International Development, I had learnt about native title, Indigenous constitutional recognition, and Indigenous cultures in various subjects prior to commencing the internship. However, I wanted an opportunity to gain knowledge beyond the theory, and a personal insight into the social, political and economic environment that affects Indigenous Australians.
The best aspect of the Program was its practicality and that I was fully immersed in the environment of an organization working to address the needs of Indigenous Australians. I met like-minded people who were open and willing to share their interesting stories and experiences. The staff at Ninti One were welcoming and genuinely invested in helping me to get the most out of the internship. I was continually inspired by their passion for working in this field, which manifests itself in the quality and effectiveness of Ninti One’s work.
My tasks were varied and interesting, mainly focused on the Stronger Communities for Children (SCfC) project, and a project doing research in communities for the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This work included teleconferences, meetings, and fieldwork. I completed literature reviews on international development literature, reflecting on where SCfC fits in an International development context, and helped in creating an e-book, based on a seminar held in Darwin in October, to send out to the Boards of the communities who attended. I also helped to pick out the main themes from interviews conducted about Indigenous child attendance at Early Learning Centres in South Australia. In my work, I identified many concepts and issues explored in my university studies both in Law and International Development subjects, which excited me, because I was able to apply my knowledge and think critically about the tasks and how they were impacting real people.
The internship also included a week-long bush trip to Amata in the APY Lands with two Aboriginal Community Researchers, conducting informal interviews to gauge perceptions and attitudes of local community members for the rollout of the NDIS. Following the trip, my fellow intern and I transcribed and the data and did intensive analysis, sorting through themes and gathering rich quotes, aligning them with the objectives of the research. The most rewarding aspect of my placement was definitely my time in Amata when I could hear first-hand, the voice of Anangu People and what they want for their community, as well as the challenges they face. The interviewing process taught me about qualitative research and the challenges that arise in cross-cultural contexts. Spending time with the Aboriginal Community Researchers showed me how good they are at building rapport and gaining genuine evidence for research. They also taught me how different community life is to mainstream cities, and how important it is to be flexible, adaptable, and culturally aware when researching in a community context. There are some great people out on the Lands, and many of them work hard. There are many community members who are also passionate about developing their community and making it strong.
I also had a fellow intern who I spent a lot of time with, who became someone I could confide in and discuss the work we were doing. She also became a travelling companion as we explored the beautiful Alice Springs and surrounding areas. Meeting up with Aurora interns from other organizations in Alice Springs was also a highlight. We were able to explore the West MacDonnell Ranges, following the advice given to us by our work colleagues, and participate in community events such as Carols By Candlelight, the annual Christmas Markets, and the Alice Springs Climate March. These events showed me the best of the Alice Springs community, which is vibrant, diverse and inclusive. At the end of my trip I also managed to squeeze in a tour to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon, which were a great ending to an exciting six weeks.
After a full six weeks of absorbing information and processing a range of new experiences, I developed a well-rounded view of such a multi-faceted field. Being treated so well by Ninti One and being reminded of how valuable we were to them, made me realise I was making a real difference and completing meaningful work. I definitely have aspirations to pursue a career in Indigenous community development, and will not forget this experience anytime soon. Applications for the winter 2016 round will be open from 7 March through 1 April online via the website at http://www.auroraproject.com.au/aurorainternshipprogram.