James Gundry

Social Science
Summer 2019



For my Aurora placement as part of the Aurora Internship Program, I went up to Darwin to spend six weeks with the lovely staff at the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA). I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them, and they went out of their way to make me feel welcome. This was definitely not an internship where I was just filing, printing and getting coffee. Instead, I was in the thick of things, and was able to assist with a number of projects. There was a definite emphasis on learning whilst I worked, and indeed, I was openly encouraged to learn about what I was doing- through reading and watching videos. The staff also loved telling yarns and stories, and so I recommend knocking on the door and asking questions. However, the other staff are often on the phone or in meetings, so just make sure they're OK for a chat, or send an email through.

I got my own office, desk, computer and various office accoutrements such as stationary and a pot plant. It was good as it made you feel like you were going to accomplish things. I had my own intern email address, and access to the addresses of all staff. NAILSMA has offices across the Top End and in Queensland, so if you're working with one of them, you will have regular meetings over webcam or phone. However, you need to be fairly independent and be prepared to work autonomously (having your own office works well with this), as there is a lot of projects and only eight staff in the Darwin office. They will help you when they can, though.

Initially, I had conversations with each staff member, and was asked to read through reports and documents available on the NAILSMA website (pro tip, do this beforehand or on the plane!!) to get a feel for what NAILSMA does, and the speciality of each staff member, for example, NAILSMA does projects involving using tracking software to allow ranger groups to record their work, indigenous education and training, Walking On Country, which focuses on getting traditional owners to go to their Country and experience it, to re-establish their connection with the land, and help the next generation to do so as well. There is also Business on Country, involving helping traditional owners and communities build capacity for jobs, tourism etc. I wasn't sure where I wanted to focus, so I was able to help on a number of these, helping write reports and flow charts for Business on Country. I have no idea about business, so they helped me out. Don't worry if they ask you to do something you are unfamiliar with- they know that, and you're encouraged to learn and ask questions. I was also able to attend a few high-level meetings as an observer, a real privilege for me. Other bonuses were attending a conference on savanna bushfire management and Indigenous burning, a key NAILSMA project. I was not able to go out into the field (to the communities) because of the wet season preventing access- there was also no opportunities for me to go unfortunately. So, do be prepared (and don't get disappointed) if there is no fieldwork available-the whole team was looking out for me in this regard, so keep asking every now and then. Oh, and finally, hours are roughly 0900-1700, but just ask if you need to go early or whatever, they are pretty relaxed.