In July 2016 I was fortunate enough to intern with the Communications Team at the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) in Perth, as part of the Aurora Internship Program.
The NNTT is an independent body within the Federal Court, which maintains registers of native title information, and assists native title claimants and other parties with their negotiations. As a graduate with a background in psychology and social sciences research, I wanted to gain insight into working in Indigenous affairs, and was also considering law as an option for further study. So when the chance to intern with Aurora arose, particularly with an agency that deals with native title claims from all over the country, I jumped at the chance!
My experience at the NNTT was overwhelmingly positive. My supervisor and colleagues were welcoming and friendly, and always eager to share snippets of information about their current projects. They included me in team meetings, lunchtime events and teleconferences with Tribunal offices in other states. I was also invited to staff morning teas, which always had a mouth-watering array of food!
My key task as an intern was to manage the ‘Plain English Project’. The goal of this project was to make Tribunal information more accessible to people using its services, many of whom (like me) do not have a detailed understanding of law. After my supervisor introduced me to native title and the principles of Plain English, I was free to wrestle the Tribunal’s 30 factsheets into crisper and plainer documents. I discovered that the process of editing and organising information, and teasing out meaning from complex language, was very rewarding. The outcome was a set of factsheets ready to be revised and published by the NNTT, and for me personally, a month of concentrated practise in communicating clearly and with a specific audience in mind.
I also spent some time on other activities. These included testing the new online geospatial system (Native Title Vision Plus) and providing feedback to its developers, observing a ‘status conference’ (a phone conference to check in on the progress of negotiations between native title representative bodies, resource companies and State government), and attending a Federal Court appeal for an important Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA). I was also fortunate enough to be at the Tribunal during NAIDOC Week, and as part of these celebrations I attended a talk by four Indigenous artists at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. The talks were heartfelt and deeply personal, and they gave me new insights into life as an Aboriginal person and artist in Perth.
A highlight of my internship was attending a two-day Cultural Respect and Safety workshop, part of the NNTT’s professional development for staff. I found the training compelling, and confronting in the best possible way. It opened my eyes to the cultural entitlements that I have, but that I am often blind to as a member of Australia’s dominant culture. I now feel aware of the cultural ‘obstacles’ I might unintentionally bring to my interactions with people of Indigenous cultures – and I also feel equipped to identify and overcome these obstacles.
Before I started I could not have envisaged how fantastic this placement would be. I was able to provide a fresh set of eyes to the Tribunal’s communications. From the point of view of my own personal development, I honed my ability to communicate clearly, to organise my work into a 9-5pm working day (in contrast my uni timetable), and to be respectful and aware when interacting with those of Indigenous cultures – all skills I draw on frequently in my daily life and work. I also gained on-the-ground perspectives on working in law and native title, which has grounded and clarified my career path.
Aurora gave me the opportunity to work for an organisation that I wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to do. Even if you only have a vague idea of where you want to work, Aurora can give you a unique opportunity for insight and development in a places you might never have known you were could contribute. If Aurora offers you a chance to intern, take it – you never know what new and exciting opportunities it might give you!