Louise Whitton, Honey Muir, Margherita Drago

Social Science
Native Title
Winter 2009

An Internship with a Difference

There are few internship programs available to social science, anthropology and law students that enable them to gain practical insight into the Native Title process, and indigenous policy more generally. The Aurora Project offers high achieving students interested in social justice such an experience. We were placed with the New South Wales Native Title Service (NTSCORP) at Redfern for 5-6 weeks during the winter break. NTSCORP is a hard-working, but small and underfunded organisation that assists Indigenous claimants as they pursue the (momentous and time consuming) task of making a Native Title claim. We were placed with the NTSCORP research team. Among their many other tasks, the historians, anthropologists and land tenure officers are responsible for helping claimants establish in a form that is acceptable to the court, the land over which the claim is made, their unbroken connection to country, and unbroken observance of traditional customs as required by the Native Title Act 1993. During our time we were given a glimpse into how much hard work goes into achieving a native title claim and providing ongoing support to claimants.

You could be placed in any of the affiliated organisations and native service providers across Australia that regularly take Aurora interns. It offers those interested in seeing Australia an opportunity to do so. However the Aurora team are also accommodating and will ask for your preferences if you proceed to an interview. The type of work you do during the program depends upon the needs of the host organisation, but there is the opportunity for fieldwork. In any situation you will need to be aware of the challenges of cross-cultural communication and the ethical implications of conducting research in such an environment. Even during an primarily office based placement you are likely to come into contact with Indigenous people who work within the organisation, or who are seeking advice from the legal and research teams. During our time at NTSCORP, our duties largely consisted of reviewing previous research, entering genealogical data into the database, reviewing historical records, mapping areas for a potential future claim, administrative duties, writing articles for the company newsletter and policy research. Our placement also fell during NAIDOC, which meant that we were able to spend the day celebrating the achievement of First Australians with a morning cultural tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens, a barbeque lunch of kangaroo (or tofu for the vegetarians) and a relaxing basket weaving session to fill our afternoon. We could not have asked for a more welcoming and friendly group of staff. They made us comfortable and involved us in their work as much as possible.

The Aurora Project is valuable to students, not only as it allows you to develop your research skills, network and gain practical experience; but also because it offers you the chance to contribute to an organisation that does excellent and meaningful work to help alleviate the disadvantage of many Indigenous communities, ensuring that the prior rights of First Australians are given adequate legal recognition. It certainly isn’t a bad way to spend 5-6 weeks of a long summer break. Applications for the Aurora Project summer internship are open now, and we would urge interested students to apply. We wish all applicants the best of luck,