Over the summer period of 2016/17, I was fortunate enough to undertake two separate Aurora internships, as part of the Aurora Internship Program. The first was at the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) in Cairns, and the second at Onetree SafeHouse, located in the remote community of Wadeye in the Northern Territory. Both internships were incredibly eye opening in terms of showing me the diversity of work that is possible when choosing a career in relation to Aboriginal Australia.
My placement at Wadeye SafeHouse was vastly different, but no less rewarding. Having never experienced living in a remote community, travelling to Wadeye was a truly amazing and challenging experience, unlike anything I have ever undertaken. Inaccessible by road during the wet season, Wadeye has the feeling of existing apart from the rest of Australia, the lingua franca is Murin-Patha and the town has an interesting dynamic which contributes to its uniqueness. Having lived in cities or large towns my whole life, being cut off from instant access to the conveniences I am used to was a steep learning curve. I was impressed by the ingenuity of people at Wadeye: without the same access to goods and services afforded to more connected parts of Australia, people make do with less.
Working at the OneTree Safe House, a place of refuge for women and children experiencing domestic violence, I was given the task of researching social norms that may contribute to higher levels of domestic violence amongst certain communities. The end goal was to produce a method of data collection that could possibly open the channels of conversation on domestic and family violence in Wadeye, as it is still a largely taboo issue to talk about. For the first time within Australia, I was confronted with a sense of culture shock, all the more disturbing as an Australian citizen who has travelled quite extensively around the world. The living conditions of local people and the dysfunction within the community that I witnessed is a stark reminder of the damage of colonisation and the beginning effects of decolonisation. Despite my initial shock, as I learnt more and spoke to more people, it was amazing to see that within Wadeye itself, many positive changes are happening in increments that contribute to better cohesiveness as a community.
I will never forget my time at Wadeye, a place both confronting and inspiring, and the connections and friendships that I have made there. Anyone wishing to work in remote communities could learn a lot from Wadeye, and I would highly recommend an Aurora internship to anyone studying anthropology or social sciences, the experience is truly eye opening and beneficial in terms of determining a future career path.
For more information about the Aurora Internship Program, visit http://www.auroraproject.com.au/aurorainternshipprogram . Applications for the winter 2017 round are now open until Friday the 31st of March.