Liesje Barratt

Social Science
Summer 2016

As a student of International Development at ACU I have learnt a lot about the inequality and injustice affecting people in developing countries. Often the result of colonialism and western hegemony, these factors have also affected the first people of our own country, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Although I have briefly studied this history, I was keen to learn more about the unique culture and issues affecting Indigenous Australians. The Aurora Internship Program provided a fantastic opportunity to experience an all too brief time with an organisation committed to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians. 

From November 9th 2015 I spent six weeks as an Aurora intern with the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre (AILC) which is situated on the banks of the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. The AILC is a registered training organisation providing courses in Indigenous Leadership and Governance as well as a range of services in workplace support and cultural competence.  During my time at the AILC I assisted to develop a concept aimed at providing Indigenous and non-Indigenous people with workplace support and an avenue that would provide solutions that were empathic, culturally sound and practical. By workshopping ideas and issues with some of the staff at the AILC, I learnt that although it is easy and often the case that Australian Aboriginal people are referred to as one, every community and mob is different and may have their own unique language, culture and concerns. 

I was also lucky enough to spend one day at the Certificate 4 course in Canberra and witness presentations from the participants on issues facing their communities. This day had a profound impact on me as I heard first hand from people whose families had been children of the stolen generation or came from communities dealing with tragic problems such as drug and alcohol addiction, crime, unemployment and suicide. I also felt what it was like to be the minority in the room. Aware of my white skin and privileged position as a university student and intern, I tried to remain reflective and aware of how I would be perceived by others and also ensure I was respectful and open to learning from those that knew best about their own culture and people.

My time in Canberra went really quickly and I enjoyed meeting new people and building new friendships. Lunchtimes often involved a browse of the Burrunju Aboriginal Art Centre situated in the building next door. Established to provide local Indigenous people with an opportunity to realise their dream of self-determination through the creation of their artworks and music, it also provided me with some beautiful Christmas gifts. The centre also hosted the Yarramundi Christmas Markets which was a lovely afternoon and evening of music, food, stalls and an opportunity to meet people from other Indigenous Organisations such as Reconciliation Australia. 

The AILC programs are about building the knowledge and the capabilities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so that they are empowered to become catalysts for change in their families, communities and workplaces. Change that can also build stronger relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and a country that we can all be proud of. My time with the AILC taught me that Australia’s past history cannot be erased however, organisations such as the AILC are working towards Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.  

To any students or graduates interested in working with or learning more about Indigenous organisations, I would highly recommend undertaking an Aurora internship. Applications for internships are open in March and August of each year (