In my penultimate year of study, I applied to undertake a native title focussed internship as part of the Aurora Internship Program. I was successful in my application, and completed a part-time legal placement at the South Australian Native Title Service (SANTS) over the 2015 mid-year university break.
SANTS is South Australia’s Native Title Representative Body (NTRB). Alongside the primary responsibility of representing the State’s Traditional Owners in obtaining recognition of the native title rights and interests they hold, SANTS provides a range of legal services which assist native title holders in the management and protection of their interest in the land.
Although my time at SANTS was limited, throughout the duration of my internship I assisted the legal team in a variety of diverse matters relevant to native title. I conducted substantive legal research in relation to the structure and design of Registered Native Title Prescribed Body Corporates (RNTBCs), which gave me an opportunity to apply the knowledge I gained through my studies of Corporate Law. I read and extracted and summarised key information from transcripts, took notes during Aboriginal Corporation meetings and governance training, and researched points of law for an upcoming trial. I was also able to draft various documents relevant to the operation of Aboriginal RNTBCs, which enabled me to develop my practical legal skills.
Attending a directors meeting of an Aboriginal Corporation was a highlight of my time at SANTS. This experience highlighted to me that the myriad of complex issues faced by Aboriginal native title holders are far from limited to the acquisition of a successful native title determination; there are innumerable challenges that arise post-determination.
The Aurora internship experience significantly enhanced my legal research and drafting abilities, while also affirming how much I am yet to learn! I strongly recommend the Aurora Internship Program to anyone who is at all interested in native title, social justice and gaining practical legal experience. It is a fantastic opportunity to gain insight into a challenging, varied and rewarding area of legal practice, while making a contribution to an incredibly important cause.