Aleesha Nathan

Social Science
Winter 2013

The Aurora Native Title Internship Program is an initiative that gives students and graduates the opportunity to undertake internships within a wide network of organisations working on Indigenous affairs. When the project originally commenced, legal interns were placed with Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs). However, the network of host organisations has grown tremendously with about 70 different opportunities across Australia in a myriad of remote locations as well as capital cities. The program receives applications from legal, anthropology and some social science candidates interested in land rights, social justice, policy development and Indigenous affairs more generally.

My involvement with the program was a 5-week placement during the winter recess at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (“CAEPR”). As a final year law/economics student, this placement was a great opportunity. Admittedly, coming from coastal Wollongong, I was daunted by the Canberra winter. But armed with a decent set of thermals and a huge coat, I was ready to embrace what the capital had to throw at me.

CAEPR is a multidisciplinary research centre, staffed by a group of anthropologists and economists. What results is an immense variety of work being undertaken at the centre. Presentations on research at the regular staff meetings covered everything from Indigenous management of land, social policy reform considerations and historical aspects of Indigenous culture.

During my time at CAEPR, I primarily assisted my supervisor with research relating to education policy. It was a real experience in applying the concepts learned and skills obtained during the course of my degree to a practical situation. What I enjoyed about this was that I was able to use both sides of my studies, the economic component for the theory of what I was examining and the legal side in terms of thinking about how policy could be practically implemented.

CAEPR itself was a fantastic organisation to be placed with. The staff are some of the most lovely people to work with and they went out of their way to make sure that I was settling in to both the centre and Canberra. They were forthcoming with suggestions of things to do in the city, as well as invitations of morning and afternoon coffee breaks. The regular Friday morning teas were also proof that CAEPR is home to not only some brilliant researchers, but quite a few great bakers as well.

What struck me during my placement was that as an intern, I was treated like a member of staff. I was placed in an office that I shared with another research fellow. I was also given a fair degree of autonomy over what I was doing in my research focus. Unlike some horror stories heard about internships, I spent very little time on the placement with the photocopier.

Another great thing about this experience is the amount of support provided by the Aurora Placements team. Beginning at the interview, they were genuinely interested in getting to know my background and interests in order to gauge which organisations would be a suitable placement. Throughout the experience, they provided tremendous support and endorsement. One of the highlights of the week was receiving the encouraging feedback from the weekly reports every Monday morning.

I know that many legal students approach the end of their degree with uncertainty regarding their next steps into the world, in terms of legal practice and beyond. For students who are hoping to forge a career in the social justice sphere, the Aurora Internship Program is a great opportunity, one which I would thoroughly recommend.

Applications are open in March and August for the annual winter and summer rounds.  For more information about the application process and host organisations, visit