I am currently in my fourth and final year completing a double degree in Environmental Science and Behavioural Science at the University of Notre Dame, Fremantle. Receiving the opportunity to intern via the Aurora Internship Program with the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) allowed me to combine both of these interests in social science and environmental land management.
SWALSC is a native title service provider for the Noongar people in the south west of Australia. They work towards resolutions around native title claims and environmental, cultural, heritage and social initiatives involved in strengthening Noongar identity and self-determination. SWALSC have recently received $1.17m in funding from the WA State Government for an Aboriginal Ranger Program in the southwest of Western Australia. Throughout my internship I was able to learn more about how the Ranger Program was to be organised and rolled out over the next 18 months. SWALSC is also in the court process with the South West Native Title Settlement, which is an exchange of native title rights for a negotiated package of benefits, such as the recognition of Noongar people as the Traditional owners of Noongar country, as well as land management opportunities and community development opportunities.
The organisation reflects values as studied within my Behavioural Science degree, as SWALSC values underpin an “outcome-based approach”, working as a bottoms-up organisation that has a core focus in delivering transparent quality outcomes for Noongar people. Their core values are respect, inclusivity, trust, and partnerships, which I believe are values that form the foundation for my Behavioural Science degree. The vision of the organisation is “to inspire, enable and lead the Noongar People to build a strong, sustainable and united Noongar Nation”. A focus for the Behavioural Science degree is developing awareness around working with marginalised and disadvantaged groups, such as Indigenous Australians, and ensuring that they have the same access to opportunities as everyone else through practical and effective initiatives and strategies. From this, I was able to apply a lot of my knowledge from my university degree into real life work situations. This included being able to reflect on the notion of white saviour, as well as analysing the discrimination and marginalisation that Indigenous Australians face at nearly every aspect of life.
I was tasked with researching, drafting and editing documents for an Aboriginal Customary Activities Document that would be released to raise awareness in the Noongar community about what rights they had in certain national parks in southwest Western Australia. This would be drafted up as text suitable for a Noongar audience, with a focus on using empowering and positive language.
During my time there, I was also extremely fortunate enough to be able to attend a NAIDOC Week event at the City of Bassendean. This was the first time attending such an event, and it was great seeing the variety of stalls, from health, educational to employment opportunities, as well as the inspirational Indigenous speakers.
My supervisor was extremely supportive and accommodating at the beginning of my internship, allowing me to take on tasks that I knew I would be able to excel in and contribute to the organisation to the best of my ability. I strongly encourage anyone in the future AURORA Internship Program to consider the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council as a placement opportunity. The skills, values, practical knowledge and experiences I have been exposed to in my placement are ones, which I will continue to apply in my personal, educational and professional identities.
Applications for the summer 2018/19 round are currently open and will close at 5pm on Friday the 31st of August. For more information, visit http://auroraproject.com.au/about-applying-internship