Mark Andrew Pavli

Social Science
Winter 2010

After three and a half years at Sydney I have an Economics degree. Great. What to do now? The Economics & Business student is often channelled towards private enterprise and the public sector, and given the multitude of internships and graduate programs that flow from these areas, it’s an easy path to follow. Certainly, very few consider Indigenous affairs. This is not because of a lack of concern for social justice or cultural awareness that the lofty minded Arts student attributes to Homo Economicus, but rather, a tendency to lose sight of broader social issues beyond the landscape of the inner-city skyscraper and the ‘Big Four’ firms inside.

The Aurora Project presents an alternative path to take. Established originally as a way of providing support to Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) and building relationships between these bodies and budding lawyers, the Project later expanded to include interns from some of the social sciences and anthropology. In addition to the 15 NTRBs, interns are placed at over 40 other organisations involved in policy, human rights and Indigenous affairs across Australia, and the geographical dispersion is mirrored in the wide range of objectives, values and cultures that exist in each.

My internship was at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE), which opened in Redfern in February this year. The NCIE promotes excellence in Indigenous youth with a holistic approach that focuses on learning and development, sport and recreation, health and wellness, and art and culture. As a national institution, it hopes to assist around five thousand young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across Australia every year. There is a vitality that pervades the culture at the NCIE as an organisation that, instead of problematising the issues faced by Indigenous youth, acknowledges and celebrates their achievements.

I was given a series of projects to undertake, most of which were postponed to more interesting or pressing matters that emerged as a result of the release of new government policies; announcements by major mining corporations; visits from key stakeholders and opinion leaders in Indigenous Affairs; and a variety of other sources. It was a fascinating experience that required the integration and application of an assortment of different (and often disconnected) concepts from my degree. To apply my knowledge in a practical setting was a useful experience, and it was incredibly rewarding to find that my work was valued and appreciated.

Clearly, a career in Indigenous Affairs is not for every Economics & Business student, but the rational decision maker has an important part to play in shaping the future of Indigenous affairs and reconciliation. The world of private enterprise, under its own direction and under the guidance of government, is waking up to the importance of this area of Australia’s future socio-economic landscape. An internship with Aurora presents a valuable opportunity to gain some practical experience in this space.

Applications for internships through the Aurora Native Title Internship Program are open in March and August of each year. Details can be found on their website at