Catherine Tayeh

Barristers/Legal Firms
Summer 2013

Last summer while you were all sipping lattes and skipping in the sunshine, I was interning with the Aurora Native Title Internship Program which focuses on native title and Indigenous Affairs. You apply to Aurora and if found to be eligible to be placed, then they negotiate a placement that will suit you and the organisation's needs. Though one intern, in the scheme of things, isn’t enough to plug the gaping void in Indigenous services and substantive equality (unless they are one larger-than-sumo intern) Aurora is becoming more and more popular with law and anthropology/social sciences students and graduates who want to work in these areas in the future. I’m going to tell you about the work I got to do during my placement, which was not, FYI, inconsistent with sipping lattes and skipping in the sunshine.

I interned with Terri Janke & Company, an Intellectual Property law firm, which specialises in protecting Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property. If it seems like a large acronym, it refers to an even larger and more diverse amount of stuff – everything from the Indigenous artworks to Traditional Knowledge which has evolved through its use for hundreds of years, from Indigenous words that are used in business names to the better known type of physical heritage which includes sacred sites and traditionally-owned lands. Terri is one of the few people in Australia who has grouped all this cultural property together and devoted her energies to using Australia's imperfect system of Intellectual Property, racial discrimination, environmental protection and trade practices laws to protect it.

Donning my chapeau of Aurora Intern/Terri Janke Paralegal, I was not given a shred of easy work. Bummer right? Well no, the projects that I got were so interesting I regularly had to go reclaim my eyebrows from the stratosphere. I worked on three big matters in total: I wrote a report on how to protect Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property in native title negotiations, I wrote advice for an Aboriginal Elder and I helped out in an IP Audit of a really big Indigenous rep organisation. Every time I stumbled over an issue or needed to talk about the biggest most perplexing issue rocking my world, Terri or the other two solicitors, Lucinda or Daniel had time to listen. That's more attention than most of my friends give me! (ahem nerds unite). My only regret is that I didn't get to use the shredder quite as often as I wanted to, but I imagine I have to move into one of those notorious law firms to have that power.

If you think that mine was a pretty unique placement, there's everything from working in the top end with Indigenous field officers to working right here with native title professionals. Keen for more info? Check out Applications for winter 2013 will be open on-line via the website from the 4th March to the 28th March at