Chantelle Blackwell

Social Science
Summer 2020

Upon completing my first year at University, I wanted to gain practical experience through interning with an Indigenous-led organisation that focused on environmental management. I was informed of Aurora’s Internship Program and decided to apply for over the summer break. I was accepted for placement with my first preference, the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA). NAILSMA is a not-for-profit Indigenous-led organisation which aims to build resilience within Northern communities across Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. The company works with a variety of stakeholders to empower Indigenous people to have control of their lands and seas. Majoring in Marine Biology and taking elective Indigenous Studies subjects, I was seeking to deepen my understanding of sustainable, culturally appropriate management – a particular focus emphaised in NAILSMA’s projects.

During my first week it was evident I came at a time where the company was under staffed and winding down for the Christmas period. However, the staff present were extremely welcoming and willing to share their knowledge and stories with me. I wasn’t appointed a specific project to work on, instead I served through completing various small tasks, such as an annotated bibliography, that contributed to broader aspects of the company’s work. Often these tasks seemed a little mundane and repetitive, but largely assisted my supervisors.

I was fortunate enough to be an active observer at meetings and government hearings, learning of the complexities in the Indigenous sector regarding community engagement and project funding. An incredible experience of mine during the internship was having the opportunity to sit in on NAILSMA’s presentation for the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia hearing, an invitation based the company’s submission for the review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC). It was a wonderful opportunity to listen, learn, and discuss questions with my supervisors. Following the hearing, I was asked to write up responses to questions presented in the EPBC Act Discussion paper. I found answering questions on NAILSMA’s behalf rather challenging and some of the questions were beyond my experience or understanding. My supervisor assisted me by providing relevant articles and/or publications to help educate me of NAILSMA’s perspective and provided context to the kinds of issues being targeted in the questions.

Experiences on fourth week of the internship were beyond my expectations. I was honoured to go on a trip to Cairns to meet with members of the Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation. NAILSMA is collaborating with the mob for a Savanna Burning project in the bushlands of Mareeba. It was so empowering to network and connect with men who are so determined to serve their people and protect their country amidst hardship.

The internship was placed in Darwin, Northern Territory - a vibrant, friendly, and exhilarating community that I loved being immersed in. I will treasure the buzz of the markets, the beautiful hues of the sunsets, and dancing to Darwin’s finest live music.

I am humbled to have interned at NAILSMA and grateful to the staff for their support, willingness to serve, and kindness. The memories and knowledge I have gained through this placement will serve as a springboard for my future studies and career.  Applications for the winter 2020 round will be open from 2 through 27 March 2020.