Annie O'Riley

Native Title
Thursday Island
Winter 2015

The 3rd of June 2015 marked the twenty-third anniversary of the historic Mabo decision. By happy coincidence, it was also the day I was selected for a legal internship in the Torres Strait as part of the Aurora Internship Program. As a third-generation Mitakoodi woman and law student, I considered gaining an internship with the Torres Strait Regional Authority’s Native Title Office (TSRA) as more than an invaluable learning opportunity. It was a chance to work for a Commonwealth Authority dedicated to native title and Australian Indigenous affairs.

​During my placement I actively provided legal and administrative support for the TSRA, Prescribed Body Corporates, Traditional Owners, lawyers, and representatives from the National Native Title Tribunal. I assisted with native title negotiations, mediations and agreements and was assigned a variety of projects and research. I was flown to Darnley Island (Erub) to attend private and community meetings with Traditional Owners. The discussions were legally complex and presented non-legal matters of equal importance. It was a privilege to learn from Traditional Owners and experienced legal professionals.

Nothing can prepare you for your first visit to the Torres Strait. The striking blue water will take your breath away and beckon your undivided attention. The landscape’s beauty falls second only to the Torres Strait Islander people whose kindness and welcoming nature will warm your heart. My internship with the TSRA was the absolute highlight of my law degree and served as a kind reminder of why I enrolled in law school. I wouldn’t have received my education without the support of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to give back.