Michael Brown

Winter 2011

Each year over the summer and winter university holidays The Aurora Native Title Internship Program places legal, anthropology and some social science students and graduates across Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) and other Indigenous corporations, government bodies, community groups, not-for-profit and policy organisations Australia-wide.

Over 6 weeks during the past winter break I was placed with the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC), a statutory body designed to achieve economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits for Indigenous people. The ILC only takes Indigenous interns through the Aurora internship program.

Indigenous Land Corporation
By way of a quick background, the ILC was established in 1995 in acknowledgment of the difficulty some Indigenous groups would have in gaining a favourable native title determination. After the Mabo decision, and the subsequent formalisation of native title process, it was recognised that vast areas of the Australian continent could not sustain a native title claim as indigenous interest had been extinguished.
In order to combat this, the ILC was set up to help reduce the effects of dispossession and was tasked with acquiring land for an ultimate goal of divesting into the indigenous estate. Operating parallel to the native title system, the ILC has been extremely successful in this mandate, to date acquiring over 231 properties for Indigenous benefit.

My Experience
My experience with the ILC has been unforgettable. I was given exposure to a broad spectrum of issues, from looking at complex legal problems to conducting basic legal drafting. The tasks I was given were always challenging, both in regards to the law and for me personally, intertwining complex legal problems with an agenda to provide positive outcomes for Indigenous peoples. Knowing that your work is going towards a project that will make a difference in the lives of Indigenous people, and not simply towards a partners bank balance, does impact on your mind frame. My work was always interesting and exciting; exposing me to an array of new issues surrounding native title, Indigenous peoples and the law.

Placement for me was fortunate enough to have been at one of the most exciting times in the ILC’s history, when the organisation had just completed the purchase of the hotels and resorts at Uluru. This is the ILC’s largest purchase to date. On my arrival, the ILC was in the process of appointing a board of directors to the managing subsidiary, and as such, these directors would need to be briefed on the implications of operating as the subsidiary of a statutory corporation. I was tasked with the responsibility of pinpointing which pieces of Commonwealth legislation would apply to the newly formed subsidiary, analysing their wording and forming my own opinions. I was thrown into the deep end, and I loved it.

Although I would have been satisfied with this alone, my learning didn’t stop here. I drafted a brief to counsel, investigated the impacts of the new personal property securities regime, clarified contractual issues and examined the statutory powers of Indigenous regional councils in Queensland, and whilst I’m sure many amendments and updates were required to my work, it was always met with praise and thanks.

The legal team were more than welcoming, answering all my questions and providing advice wherever needed. I was also able to learn about the diverse experiences of its members at Friday drinks and team lunches, offering insights into their understanding and getting advice on my own career, as well as explore a new city.

I would highly recommend an Aurora internship to anyone seeking to not only learn the law, but looking to grow personally and professionally.

Applications for summer 2011/12 internships close 5pm Friday 2 September 2011. More details can be found on the website at www.auroraproject.com.au