Having graduated from UCL with a degree in anthropology I became interested in issues pertaining to Australia’s indigenous populations whilst travelling yet I was still unclear as to how I could translate my interests into paid employment. I chanced upon the Aurora Project and recognised that this was an excellent opportunity for me to gain meaningful experience in practical anthropology.
The Aurora Native Title Internship Program places anthropology, some social science, and law students and graduates with Native Title Representative Bodies, and other Indigenous organisations working in policy development, human rights and social justice/welfare, for 5-6 week internships during the winter and summer university breaks. I was fortunate, as an international graduate, to be offered a placement with CSSU at the Wadeye Safe House. The emphasis of these internships is on providing assistance to under-staffed and under-resourced organisations, but I also found that being in an Aboriginal community offered plenty of opportunities to initiate my own learning.
CSSU have only recently opened the Safe House at Wadeye, the construction of which was part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response or ‘Intervention’, and my very being in Wadeye was a political issue for me to consider. CSSU had not placed an intern before so it was a learning experience for both parties; however my supervisor was herself an Aurora alumnus and keen to ensure my experience was as positive as hers had been.
I can imagine it would have been quite daunting arriving in Wadeye for the first time had I not previously spent time in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, however there were plenty of people who were keen to make me feel at home and ensure that I was not socially isolated, very important when the only road into town is closed for 6 months of the year! I felt extremely fortunate with my accommodation as I was given my own room in probably one of the nicest houses in the community and we had a large guard dog which helped me to sleep at night.
Wadeye has gained a lot of bad press over the years and while I do not dispute that this is a troubled community I did not feel unsafe there at any time, though I would not recommend walking around alone at night without a friend and a big stick as there are a lot of cheeky camp dogs.
There were three strands to my internship: learning about the day-to-day running of the Safe House and therefore be able to cover shifts and assist the acting Manager; a project on domestic violence that was allocated to me by the CEO; and generally observing and talking to people in the community to learn about the different services and how the community functions.
The internship culminated in me being responsible for the running of the Safe House (under the supervision of a CSSU manager) for a week whilst the acting Safe House Manager was away on a course, and creating a display about the Safe House and domestic violence for the indigenous women at the town’s Women’s Health and Wellbeing Day.
I learnt a lot from meeting people in the community and had many stimulating and challenging conversations with other service providers which made me consider what I could bring to a community development role. As a result of this internship I have been offered a job at the Wadeye Safe House.
Applications for the winter 2012 round of Aurora internships will be open in February 2012 on-line via their website on www.auroraproject.com.au. Take a look at the website for more details about the program