Coming from Europe, I had limited knowledge of Australia’s Indigenous groups and their multifaceted cultural heritage. Therefore, during my six month long stay in Australia as a part of my study program, I was eager to gain more in-depth information into the complexity of Indigenous affairs. An internship presented the perfect opportunity to learn more about this topic and its crucial role in Australia’s history. After finding out about the Aurora Internship Program and the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT), I had not expected to be selected for a placement due to my inexperience and completely different academic background. Hence, I was surprised and excited to receive a positive reply from the program and their offer to place me at the NNTT in Melbourne. I had selected the NNTT as one of my Host preferences because I wanted to see how Indigenous issues are embedded into administrative government structures. The process leading up to the placement were very well managed by the Aurora Internships team and likewise the support during the internship. I always felt well cared for and had the impression that the team was very invested in their interns and their concerns.
The NNTT is an independent agency established in the context of the Native Title Act (1993) and is one part of the complex native title process with a diverse range of responsibilities; playing an important role in arbitral and administrative decision making. The agency offers assistance and mediation to parties involved in native title claims and is responsible for the maintenance of three registers, the Native Title Register, Register of Native Title Claims and the Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements. Additionally, the NNTT provides research information and projects on current issues in the context of the Native Title Act. I was placed in the research and development department and assisted the Dispute Resolution Research Project, dedicated to developing strategies of dispute resolution within the Prescribed Bodies Corporates (PBC) for Australia. Charged with reviewing literature, my task encompassed gathering information in the field of risk, dispute resolution and juridification as well as preparing summaries of resources collections. The research I supported formed the initial phase of the project aiming to understand the reasons for arguments within PBCs and to offer mechanisms to resolve them. The collected data will be further analysed and used to develop a questionnaire to be answered by key personnel of different PBCs. In addition to the research task, I had the possibility to participate in a meeting with the First Nations Legal and Research Services (FNLRS) concerning the PBC’s, the diverse challenges these are facing, and how the NNTT might be helpful in minimizing disputes as part of the dispute resolution project. It was deeply insightful and interesting to see different actors and perspectives involved in the native title process and to observe detailed knowledge of people dealing with Indigenous questions.
The small team at the NNTT was very kind, welcoming and made my stay a truly positive experience. The quiet atmosphere at the office made work pleasant and productive. The internship was an insightful possibility for me to observe the complexities, and different layers of the native title process, I had not been aware of prior to my placement. I am happy to have been part of the Aurora Internship Program.