Lauren Varley

Organisation: 
Stream: 
Anthropology
Sector: 
Native Title
Location: 
Brisbane
Round: 
Summer 2015

The Aurora Internship Experience: A review by Lauren Varley
 My 2014/15 summer Aurora internship via the Aurora Internship Program started with a bang. In the first week, I attended a workshop in Perth, hosted by Aurora with Kingsley Palmer presenting, which focused on an ‘Introduction to Native Title Anthropology’. As I am not currently employed by an NTRB or NTSP, I was able to apply for travel assistance from Aurora, and was lucky enough to have the costs for this trip covered for me.
I have to say that this workshop was one of the best weeks of my university life – and not just because of the free food. I learned so much about the ins and outs of working in Native Title. I got to meet other anthropology interns and graduates from all around Australia, and make some friends for life. There aren’t many times in your student life (if ever) that you get flown across the country, put up in accommodation, and fed, all so that you can learn about what you are already interested in. I was lucky enough to have this experience, thanks to the Aurora project, and I would encourage any anthropology interns or graduates to attend this program if they can.
Upon returning to Brisbane, I immediately commenced a five week internship at Queensland South Native Title Services (QSNTS). I felt comfortable from the minute I walked in the door of the office; I knew I had chosen a good place to learn. Many members of the research team at QSNTS had been Aurora interns themselves in the past, and they all were welcoming and supportive from the start.
I was able to undertake numerous tasks over my time on placement. While some of them were administrative in nature, all of them were relevant to the research required for either the regional projects, or the current claims, as undertaken by QSNTS. I didn’t get stuck doing any random filing or coffee runs. All the tasks I did helped me to improve my research skills, in regards to sifting through large amounts of information to find the relevant points. I also became much more familiar with the different types of documents common to the native title research process, and the standard of evidence required by the court to prove connection.  Additionally, I learned how to conduct research in the State archives and the Queensland State Library.
The highlight of my experience at QSNTS was heading out to an informal interview with one of the researchers, for one of the regional research projects. The informant for the interview was a lovely lady with a fascinating life history. From the documents she gave us at the interview, I hand drew a genealogy which included over 60 people. I noted any important information we had on each person on the genealogy, and synthesised the information as much as possible, for the future use of researcher and consultant anthropologists. It was a great experience to witness an interview (even though it was informal and short), and to do some initial analysis of historical documents for the purpose of targeted research.
The internship was not without its challenges. It taught me a lot about my personal limits. As I live in Brisbane, where QSNTS is located, I didn’t have to get used to a new city for the time of my placement. However, I did have to continue to work all weekend, every weekend, in order to keep my job, and move house, in the process. Having such a full schedule caused me to get sick, and I had to take some days off to rest. The most challenging aspect of my experience was not directly related to the internship – but to the lack of energy I had from being busy with life’s other demands, on top of the internship. For future interns, I would recommend (as far as possible) not biting off more than you can chew. You will want to be full of energy for your internship, to give it all you’ve got.

Overall, I had a great 5 weeks at QSNTS. I learned a lot about how the native title system works, and the role of researchers and anthropologists in the process. The experience solidified my existing interest in working in native title. Although it was hard balancing an internship and a job at the same time, it was worth the effort in the end. I would like to thank the Aurora team for their hard work and organisation, and QSNTS for their time and teaching. I would encourage anyone considering an Aurora internship, to go for it.