Hannah von Farrell

Native Title
Winter 2013

My arrival in Darwin could not have been lovelier; leaving the airport, I was welcomed by a balmy 24 degrees, even at 1.30am. This was an auspicious start to my five-week stay to intern at the Northern Land Council (‘NLC’) and I could not have been more thrilled.

The NLC is an independent statutory authority of the Commonwealth . It is responsible for assisting Aboriginal peoples in the Top End of the Northern Territory to acquire and manage their traditional lands and seas pursuant to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) and the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). The breadth of projects which the NLC provides assistance on is enormous and includes mining and exploration projects, the construction of gas pipelines, army training areas, national parks and pastoral activities. The challenge for the NLC is to identify and consult with the Aboriginal persons affected by these projects and ensure that social, economic and cultural benefits from the projects flow to them. .

While having been warned that I might be asked to do administrative tasks including filing and photocopying during my internship, I found this to not be the case. Instead, I was given a range of research projects, and also got to proofread leases and mining agreements, compile briefs for counsel and attend meetings with government departments. The major project I was involved in was the preparation of a submission addressing the draft Environmental Impact Statement Guidelines released by the Northern Territory’s Environmental Protection Agency. I was able to see this through from conception to end, which was satisfying. The legal department consists of quite a few young solicitors, some of whom had only recently been admitted. This made the environment quite social, and it was easy to approach people to ask for work and help.

In the course of my internship I attended a number on-country consultations concerning native title claims and exploration and mining proposals. These bush trips were the highlight of my internship as I got to accompany solicitors, anthropologists and mining officers to communities out past Mataranka (roughly 450 km from Darwin) and to Borroloola (970 km from Darwin)and fly in a Conquest (a 10-seater plane that makes turbulence on a commercial flight look like a hiccough).

The Aurora Program offers internships in both the winter and the summer university breaks for between 5-6 weeks. We highly recommend you to take this opportunity, whether it’s in the exotic location of Darwin, or finding more about the organisations closer to home, like Canberra. You will be able to learn a lot, meet a lot of new people and potentially create the start of a new career for yourself.