The major work that I was involved in throughout my Aurora internship canvassed a considerable range of areas of law. I was exposed to cultural heritage and native title law through research tasks as well as the observation and minute taking in the Native Title Holders and Directors meetings. My supervisor, the corporation’s in-house lawyer, also incorporated projects in my area of personal interest in employment law, through tasks to draft employment separation agreement templates. Another significant task involved charities law in compiling an executive briefing on post-registration requirements to maintain charitable status, which was accompanied by compliance checklists.
Other valuable experiences in my internship included travelling to the Northern territory border, which was only twenty minutes from the camp site; visiting and exploring the local Cammoweal town; a day trip to Mount Isa to meet and interview expert cultural heritage Rangers as well as the Manager of a related company working on the Commonwealth Government Remote Jobs and Communities Program; and a brief visit to the nearby Drovers Museum.
In my spare time in my internship, I enjoyed reading two booklets that DAC has produced with funding from a ‘Your Community Heritage’ Grant from the Commonwealth Department of the Environment produced. The overall project title is Stories from the Camooweal Caves (Wiliyan-ngurru) Heritage Landscape, one being ‘The town of Camooweal’ and the other being ‘The Georgina River And Barkly Tablelands.’ This context is so vital to appreciating the work done at DAC. Unlike many past and present paternalistic government projects, this is more than a restoration project to counter the harmful legacy of European oppression, the top-down methods of which only further embed economic dependency. In contrast, DAC reflects an innovative, proactive movement to mobilise individuals and communities towards Indigenous economic self-sufficiency and empowerment by reconstructing self-perception and identity. The successful Native Title claim of 2012 has been just one aspect of this ongoing journey, in which Dowsett J of the Federal Court stated, ‘I have not come here today to give anything to the Indjalandji-Dhidhanu people. Rather, I have come to recognise, on behalf of all Australians, that they are the traditional owners of this land pursuant to traditional laws and customs which have their roots in ancient times.’
I also learned about DAC’s nationally leading training program, which provides TAFE accreditation and training in mining and civil construction to Indigenous youth in remote communities. DAC has partnered with mines MMG and Glencore to transition the trainees into full-time employment at the completion of the program. In my discussion with the trainers, they emphasized that the most important concept is ‘communication.’ This reflects DAC’s overriding aim to instill not only ‘hard,’ technical skills in their trainees, but also ‘soft,’ transferable skills, which are essential to being ‘work ready.’ It is also representative of their custodianship model, where service delivery prioritises relationships and other cultural values and norms within the frame of economic development. Trainees’ personal welfare is supported and foregrounded throughout the program, which is a significant factor contributing towards their retention rates and overall success. Unlike other training programs, DAC’s ‘practice is based on a strong commitment to Aboriginal law and culture’ (Memmott, 2007, On Generating Culturally Sustainable Enterprises and Demand-Responsive Services, Australian National University, pp. 252) and is thus a holistic model for individual self-transformation within a communal and culturally responsive setting.
Further information on Aurora Internships can be obtained from the website at
. I would strongly encourage all law students to apply and to pursue any opportunity to be involved in native title and Indigenous organisations. Applications for the winter 2016 round will be open online via their website from 7 March through 1 April 2016.