In December 2013 I undertook a four week internship with the Kimberley Land Council in Broome as part of the Aurora Project’s nationwide Native Title Internship Program. The experience was fantastic, providing an insight into regional legal work and alternative pathways into legal practice.
The internship presents an opportunity to put legal skills across a number of areas of law into practice. Native title requires knowledge and understanding of not only the Native Title Actbut also mineral law, corporation’s law and property law, among others. While at the KLC, I undertook tasks in the office that tested my existing skills and knowledge and exposed me to a whole range of new legal issues linked to native title.
Prior to beginning work at the KLC, I had studied native title in the context of one component of a property law course and as part of a specialist subject ‘Indigenous Australian’s and the Law’, which I undertook as an elective. I found coming to the KLC with some background knowledge and understanding of native title law useful, though certainly not essential. The lawyers still explained, and were happy to do so, the details of how the law operates in practice and how each task relates to the broader statutory scheme of native title.
Like many Aurora interns, a highlight of my experience was being given the opportunity to travel out on country to attend meetings. I had such an opportunity in my first week with the KLC when I travelled up the Dampier Peninsular to attend the Directors’ meeting and AGM of a Prescribed Body Corporate (PBC). There were two days of meetings during which my primary responsibility was to take the minutes. Taking minutes, though seemingly a tedious administrative task, is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the business of the group, become familiar with the requirements of the specific laws and regulations relating to Aboriginal corporations, as well as giving the feeling of being a participant in the meeting rather than just an observer. It’s also an excellent way of learning and remembering names.
More generally, PBC meetings demonstrate the ongoing engagement KLC has with native title claim groups following their successful native title determination. It was great to see the day to day decision making with respect to land, resources and conservation that Aboriginal people are engaging in following determination of their claims.
My time at the KLC has highlighted the complexity and breadth of work that is done by Native Title Representative Bodies and has certainly sparked an ongoing interest to work in the area in the future. I also very much enjoyed the experience of Broome as a town. It’s a welcoming, friendly place and with Cable Beach just down the road, it felt a lot like living in paradise!