Darren Leng

Social Science
Community Development/Ranger Programs
Winter 2014

Being a recent graduate straight out of university can be tough, not everyone gets a graduate job straight away. I myself graduated with a degree in Environmental Management, and wasn’t successful in any of my graduate applications. This is why I applied for an internship via the Aurora Internship Program. I wanted to expand my skills, learn and develop myself for the future. I was lucky to get a placement with Regional Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation (RASAC). RASAC delivers municipal services on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY).  The APY Lands are declared Aboriginal Lands under the APY Lands Rights Act whereby the SA Parliament gave Aboriginal people title to more than 103,000 square kilometres of arid land in the far northwest of South Australia. RASAC has works depots in 8 local communities on the APY Lands and an administration office in Alice Springs.

RASAC were looking for an intern to work on their WHS documents and turn them into presentations in the local Pitjantjatjara language for local Aboriginal Anangu workers. It was a chance to work with an Aboriginal person, which was the most enticing aspect of the role.

The actual work I undertook may have seemed not useful, but it actually was. WHS is important in every industry, and every day I looked over those documents, it embedded different aspects in me for my future. Much of what I did was turning the documents into its simplest form, in a PowerPoint slide. The presentations needed to be simple, with lots of pictures and simple dialogue to suit the audience it was made for. English is often a third or fourth language. The Anangu workers needed something to captivate whilst educate, therefore it could not be like a university presentation, no long paragraphs, just simple sentences. The other part of the job was translating the presentation into Pitjantjatjara. I was working with a local elder, to help translate and make audio narrations for the presentation.

This was the thing I most looked forward to. Learning in university about Aboriginal culture, communities and everything else, is all fine and you learn, but it is nothing like seeing it and breathing it. Firstly I had to travel 5 hours South West to the APY lands, in Northern South Australia. This meant buying all my groceries prior to the trip and travelling on dirt roads. All of this was a learning curve, something I had never done before, but I can now say I have remote travelling and working experience. I stayed in a community called Umuwa, which was 30 minutes away from the community of Pukatja. Pukatja was the community where the elder I was going to work with lived. My first impression upon entering the community was how different it was in comparison to Brisbane suburbs where I live.  Communities have a lot of ‘camp’ dogs roaming around which belong to local families. This meant very slow driving around community, because you did not want to hit one of those dogs. Another thing I noticed was that there was litter and abandoned cars around, or between the long stretches of community. 

I worked with the elder at her house, it was usually quiet, but there were people that came and went throughout the time we were working as there were several funerals and sorry camps happening.

Reflecting on what I did, who I worked with and where I was, I feel truly fortunate to be given this opportunity. One can read about Aboriginal communities and the associated bad press they receive. But this is nothing compared to actually experiencing life in remote communities first hand, some of which could be a little confronting. It was also interesting to see RASACs commitment to the Anangu workers. This is firstly by employment, via the services it provides to the different communities and lastly doing something like making WHS information accessible and interpreted. Many organizations wouldn’t go to these lengths, which is what made the work I did even more meaningful.

I’d like to think this experience has given me some additional work and life experience that will help me find work in the near future. I encourage anyone that has the opportunity to do get involved with the Aurora Internship Program. Whether you are like me and haven’t got a full time job in your field, or whether you just want to experience something new. This Program is a great pathway and you will definitely benefit from it like I did.

If you want to know more about the Aurora Internship Program, its host organisations or the selection criteria, check out the Aurora website: http://www.auroraproject.com.au/native_title. Applications for the winter 2015 round will open on-line from 2 through 27 March 2015.​