During June to July 2017 I completed an Aurora internship with the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA) in Darwin. NAILSMA is an independent, Indigenous owned and led, non-for-profit, non-governmental organisation aimed at supporting Indigenous people in empowering and sustainable land and sea management across northern Australia. Their scope is large, with many projects including implementing carbon farming, water management, and biosecurity in Indigenous land management with a focus on broad-scale change that achieves cultural, environmental and economic benefits for Indigenous people.
Studying majors in Ecology and Indigenous studies, NAILSMA was the perfect organisation for me in the end, even though I did not consider them in my initial five Host preferences. Further, the project my supervisor chose for me touched very close to some of the subject matter I have been thinking of recently. My primary project was to undertake desktop literature search, supplemented by expert consultation, of the current International models for Co-Benefit Standards and assessment and with particular reference to Indigenous peoples. This was done with an aim to propose conclusions in report format of the development of an Indigenous land management-based voluntary market credit. For the first week or so, I was overwhelmed by the broad scope and difficulty of the subject, but found it rewarding in the end to be entrusted with independent, self-guided research. I used three of my total four weeks to engage in research, and my supervisor kindly allowed me to write up my official report after the conclusion of my internship.
Although I did not expect it, I expressed my interest in going out on country to my supervisor and other employees at NAILSMA. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go on a weeklong field trip to an on-country meeting of the Waanyi-Garawa rangers and community members centred around a Bush Heritage biological survey. It was a long, bumpy two-day drive in the back of a Toyota, but it was worth it to get to such a remote location so far from the buzz and hum of wifi and hiss of air conditioning. I did not get the chance to directly interact with any Indigenous community members or rangers. However, it was an invaluable experience to understand the reality of Indigenous land management programs in their struggle to function or even get started. It also illuminated the vast political, social and economic issues preventing people from just getting back onto their country, let alone live on country. This experience made me doubt the very research I have been performing in its complexity; people are still struggling to meet basic goals let alone extend into the intricacy of co-benefits. This experience, with extensive talks with the NAILSMA Project Coordinator I was assisting about practical reality of Indigenous land management, also served to break my romanticism of Indigenous rangers and my sometimes overly constructivist, politically-correct viewpoint.
The weather was so perfect every day in Darwin it was almost boring. I enjoyed getting out on the beach, going to markets and catching up with some of the other AURORA interns. The workplace at NAILSMA was very welcoming and everyone had an interesting story, so I enjoyed working and interacting with the staff, despite my dismay at sitting at a computer in an office every day. I hope to maintain contact with some of these amazing individuals. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work at this organisation and have learnt a lot about the realities of the Indigenous sector, Indigenous land management, and the pressures faced by NGOs. Although I missed out on direct interaction with Indigenous land owners and managers, I gained invaluable experience in working in such a workplace and having the opportunity to gain insight and knowledge from hard-working and dedicated experts in the Indigenous sector. I would recommend anyone interested in understanding the Indigenous sector to undertake an internship through AURORA, and further with NAILSMA and relish the opportunity to extend their independence in self-guided work.