Ellen Taylor

Community Development/Ranger Programs
Summer 2016

The Aurora Internship Program is a great way to gain experience in the area of Indigenous affairs. I was very excited and proud to have been accepted into the Program. I found that the people within the Program worked extremely hard to place me with one of my preference organisations. They took into consideration practicalities such as accommodation and travel as well as my interests and preferences. After back and forth communication I was placed at Gurehlgam, an Indigenous run corporation in Grafton, NSW. The organisation also offers services in Coffs Harbour and Kempsey and has recently acquired the Yarrawarra Cultural Centre at Corindi Beach. I was able to visit all of these services. Grafton is about an hour drive from where I live. Whilst I was excited by the opportunity to travel with the Program, undertaking my internship close to home was definitely cost effective and still a very interesting experience.

I have finished my Bachelor of Arts/ Bachelor of Laws degree. The work I did at Gurehlgam was not legal. It was much more general. I felt that I was able to gain a good insight into the type of work I may be able to do should I decide not to practice.

Two of the main tasks I worked on were preparing an application for the Indigenous Governance Awards and assisting the organisation in its attempt to be an accredited provider under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The Indigenous Governance Awards recognises good governance in Indigenous organisations and provides monetary prizes and recognition to the winners. Preparing an application required me to look at the organisation’s policies, reports and projects in order to address the criteria. I enjoyed doing this as I was able to put my research and analytical skills to use and was also able to address some of the issues I learnt throughout my studies in the application, such as the importance of self-determination for Indigenous Australians.

I also assisted the organisation to become closer to becoming NDIS accredited. My role was to ascertain how close Gurehlgam was to meeting the NDIS standards and in what areas gaps still remained. To achieve this I compared the standards for accreditation to the organisation’s policies and procedures and participated in a self assessment on behalf of the organisation. I identified where gaps existed and consulted with the Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat (NSW) (ABSEC) regarding these gaps. As a result of this work, Kenn (the manager) has since received an email back from ABSEC offering assistance with meeting any gaps. I also took the initiative to do my own research regarding the NDIS and attempted to to write my own policies to cover the gaps that existed.

Kenn also asked me to collect information about how the different arms of the organisation evaluated their service. I had fun visiting the different offices (particularly Kempsey which offers legal and case management services) and collecting information about how each service evaluated themselves. I obtained copies of client evaluation sheets and records of the number of clients who visited the service where available and discussed evaluation methods with each Project Leader.

Other general tasks and experiences I had during my internship included sitting it on meetings with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, taking minutes at a Board Meeting and taking phone calls. I found that I very rarely if at all had any administrative or mindless work. Generally I learnt about how Not for Profits interact with each other and Government agencies and about the funding process.

I would recommend an internship at Gurehlgam to social science students and legal students who are not entirely sure if they want to practice and would like to gain a wide variety of experience. The organisation was very encouraging and helpful. They paid me a stipend each week and paid for my travel costs to visit the Kempsey office.

If you think this is something you would like to do head to http://www.auroraproject.com.au/aurorainternshipprogram to apply. 5-6 weeks goes very quickly and you will learn a lot. Applications for the summer 2016/2017 round of internships will be open on-line from 1 August through 26 August.