Elizabeth McFarlane

Organisation: 
Stream: 
Anthropology
Sector: 
Native Title
Location: 
Darwin
Round: 
Winter 2009

I first discovered the Aurora Project whilst I was studying for my final semester of a Bachelor of
Social Science, majoring in anthropology and archaeology. Practical experience or fieldwork is not something that is incorporated within my degree and after two and a half years at university I was beginning to wonder where all my study was even leading me. I jumped at the chance to apply for an Aurora Internship as I figured that this would give me the insight into what people in my field did day in, day out. I was certainly not disappointed, as my internship not only gave me the opportunity to see how social scientists work and how research projects are conducted, but also to visit amazing places and meet interesting people which I would not have otherwise.

I was placed in Darwin at the North Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency, an Aboriginal Legal Aid
Service in December. When I arrived, my supervisor, James, was in the planning stages of a new research project. The project aimed to investigate the impact eighteen new police stations,
established since the government Intervention, have had on remote Indigenous communities. In these first weeks we spent a lot of time meeting with various interested parties, introducing them to the project and asking for their input on how to best go about it. I spent some time researching information on these communities, like population size, access details and possible contacts in the region. I also read numerous books and articles to give me an insight into policing in Indigenous communities, the criminal justice system and violence in Indigenous communities. My favourite task I was charged with in these first few weeks was to design the survey that was to be given to the police working in the communities.  I appreciated being given such an important task and enjoyed the challenge. 

One of the best things about my internship was not only the work that I got to do, but the travelling I got to do all around the Northern Territory. After my first week in Darwin, James and I drove all the way to Alice Springs which was an awesome experience. I got to see countryside I'd never seen before, and meet interesting people at the various towns along the way. Some of the highlights along this journey for me were stopping in to see the Devil's Marbles and visiting the Cultural Centre in Tennant Creek.

I then spent the remainder of the first part of my internship in Alice Springs, continuing with our research project preparations, much the same as we did in Darwin. Alice Springs was an awesome place to visit and I was lucky enough to go out camping with James one weekend. We headed out into the West MacDonnell Ranges and spent the next two days bushwalking and swimming amongst some pretty spectacular scenery, my favourite of which was Redbank Gorge. On the drive back to Alice we stopped in at Hermannsburg, which I found interesting, as it was the first remote Indigenous community I have ever visited.

So ended the first part of my internship, however I was lucky enough to be invited back out to the Northern Territory in April over my lecture recess. This time, I was actually able to go out into one of the communities and help out with the research. James, a field officer and myself, travelled to one of the most remote communities in all of the Northern Territory, a whole days drive from Alice Springs, on a mostly unsealed and very rough road. During the four days we were in the community, we basically spent our time just chatting with the locals at all of their favourite hang-outs, which was awesome. Not only did we get a lot of people interested in helping us out with our policing research by telling us their experiences, but some locals were also willing to chat to us about their unique culture and life in general in the community. By talking with these people, I learned how to approach people without being intrusive, communicate with people when there is a language and culture boundary and how to ask people questions without influencing their answers. 

I'm very thankful that I was able to participate in my Aurora Internship. It gave me an avenue to practice skills, and make contacts with people, which might one day help me in my career. I got to meet interesting people, learn about a different culture and experience a different way of life. I also got to travel all across the Northern Territory and see sights which very few people ever get to see. I thoroughly enjoyed my internship and found it immensely worthwhile. I would encourage anyone considering a career in anthropology or social science to apply. Applications for the summer 2009/10 round of internships will be open from the 10th August through 4th September via the Aurora website.