Inara Walden

Social Science
Winter 2014

Over winter I have had the privilege of undertaking a five week internship in Darwin via the Aurora Internship Program. Aurora is an inspired program which matches university students and recent graduates from legal, anthropological and social science backgrounds with Indigenous organisations working in areas such as native title, law, policy and social justice. The Program offers participants a unique opportunity to gain experience and insight into careers in these fields, and to be introduced to potential future employers. Meanwhile it provides much needed additional resources to Indigenous organisations who frequently lack capacity to achieve their goals.

I was thrilled to be matched with Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT), an alliance comprising the Northern Land Council (NLC), Central Land Council (CLC), Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS).

APO NT works to develop constructive policies on critical issues facing Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and to influence the work of the Australian and Northern Territory governments. The alliance was formed in October 2010 to provide a more effective response to key issues of joint interest and concern affecting Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, including through advocating practical policy solutions to government. APO NT also aims to provide a representative voice for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and to enable effective communication and information distribution between and within communities and Aboriginal organisations.

My role at APO NT during my internship was to assist with drafting submissions to two parliamentary inquiries: about the Federal Government's proposed welfare reforms, and about the impacts of domestic and family violence in Australia. This involved analysing the proposed amendment bills and inquiry terms of reference, before researching the particular impacts of the welfare reforms and of family violence on Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. It took considerable time to gather relevant data to back up recommendations APO NT planned to include in the submissions and to provide sufficient discussion of quite complex areas of policy. I was pleased to be able to contribute my skills and knowledge to carrying out these tasks for the organisation. It was gratifying to be able to do real and important policy-related work for APO NT as part of my internship. 

The team at APO NT were terrific, welcoming, warm and fun, yet always totally committed to the work they do.  I was especially grateful to my supervisors, the APO NT policy officer and acting CEO, who were both incredibly busy with a range of other deadlines and advocacy tasks, planning forums, and attending meetings to liaise with APO NT partners and others, but nevertheless made time to keep me in the loop and make sure I was going ok with my assigned tasks. I was warmly welcomed from day one, frequently thanked and reminded how grateful the organisation was to have my input at a time of political change and need by APO NT for additional capacity to help the organisation to respond in a timely way to governments' calls for input on important issues.

The Aurora internship was, for me, an amazing opportunity to step out of my everyday life, put the skills I've been acquiring during my studies to good use, and make an important contribution to a worthy organisation. It was also a great opportunity to experience life in Australia's most far-flung capital city. During my time at APO NT, I also had the opportunity to travel to Katherine for 4 days with a team who were delivering governance workshops for staff and leaders from various Aboriginal organisations.