Kristen Parkes

Native Title
Summer 2017

As a 3rd year Anthropology and Sociology student, I could not pass up the opportunity to learn more about the relationships between the Federal and State governments and the ongoing battle for recognition and protection of the cultural heritage of Indigenous Australians. From January to February of 2017 I undertook a 5-week Aurora Internship with the North Queensland Land Council (NQLC) based in the Townsville office, and although I have spent over half my life in North Queensland and have a broad knowledge base of Indigenous Australia throughout my travels around the country, friends, family, and my studies, I was not overly familiar with the field of native title. I had of course heard of native title, but mostly in short seditious media references without any real depth or sense of authenticity, so this opportunity was not one to pass up.

For the first week, I was given an introduction into the practice of native title work with a brief historical overview of the process in Australia, followed by an in-depth induction into the structure and practices employed by the NQLC. Overwhelmingly the staff were enthusiastic about my participation in the office and took it upon themselves to all educate me on the different aspects of native title claims, I learnt about the legal processes, the logistics work of Project Officers, PBC Officers, anthropological practice, ethics, research techniques, and gained a deeper understanding of the connection to country that Traditional Owners have, all of which opened my eyes to the true nature of native title and cemented my aspirations to work within the industry in the future.

During the remainder of my internship, I was fortunate to be given access to historical documents in the James Cook University Special collections library and tasked with the important job of searching for the history of people in the North Queensland Region to further assist the staff anthropologists with their research and connection reports which are imperative when it comes to facilitating native title determinations. I was also tasked with studying the NQLC’s copy of Norman Tindale’s 1938 expedition journal and organizing the data I collected into an updated index for future research and native title claims undertaken by the NQLC. 
The Aurora Internship program is an invaluable opportunity to gain practical experience within the field of Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Sciences, which can be directly reconciled with the anthropological and sociological theory that is taught at University. I cannot recommend the Aurora program enough to other social science students and graduates as the knowledge and skills you will learn in an internship will carry you forward in your chosen profession and personal life for years to come.