Kelsey Bagust

Social Science
Summer 2017

Throughout my academic career, I’d had little exposure to native title and Indigenous affairs. After speaking to my peers and other environmental management students, I discovered that my experience was not isolated.

Though I was peripherally aware of the importance of native title in natural resource management, I felt like I had little understanding of the native title policy landscape in Australia.

I figured, what better way to learn, than by working within that sector?

Between February and March, I spent six weeks in Canberra undertaking an Aurora placement with the Australian Institute of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) within the Land and Water division of the Native Title Research Unit (NTRU). The placement was organized by the Aurora Internship Program; an organisation that places law, anthropology and social science students and graduates within native title and other Indigenous sector organisations.

I went in with a pretty limited understanding of native title, and even the role of AIATSIS in the Indigenous affairs sector. I left with a passion for native title, Indigenous affairs and a profound respect for the work done by organizations such as AIATSIS.

When I thought of interning, the first thing that came to mind was getting coffee for people and making photocopies. Though I did spend some time doing administrative tasks, largely I was given meaningful and interesting tasks that were challenging and matched my research interests.

From the first day, I found myself surrounded by passionate, interesting and intelligent people. My supervisors were incredibly supportive, offering advice and insight into the workings of federal government and the Indigenous affairs policy landscape.

I undertook research into Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander representation in natural resource management organisations and the conservation sector, and learnt how to write project proposals. I drafted a discussion paper, conducted archival research and was involved in a diverse range of projects.

My time at AIATSIS was eye opening and has inspired me to pursue a professional career in policy research and to further my understanding of the native title sector throughout my academic career.