Rose Rutherford

Social Science
Summer 2017

Between January and March of 2017, I had the opportunity to intern via the Aurora Internship Program with the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd. (NAILSMA). NAILSMA is an independent Indigenous Non-Government Organisation (NGO) that conducts research and carries out projects, in order to support Traditional Owners in the north to care for their land and sea country as they want to.
I was excited to work with this particular organisation as I had come across, and been impressed by, their projects during my university studies and wanted to see how it all worked in action. As the organisation explicitly engages with the social, cultural and environmental aspects of issues, I also felt this would be an excellent opportunity to contextualise my multidisciplinary academic background. I recently graduated from studying Arts and Science with majors in development studies, Spanish and environmental science.  

Upon arriving in Darwin and beginning my work in the office, I was immediately struck by how welcoming everyone was. Being a small office, I was very lucky to have the chance to get to know everyone and ask about their respective work and projects. My goal in going to Darwin was to listen, learn and to be as useful as possible to NAILSMA, so I tried to keep this in mind throughout my placement and do my absolute best with the task I was assigned.

The specific project I was tasked with during my six-week stint was to conduct a desktop review to inform a broader project looking at Indigenous knowledge needs as end users of marine science. The final report I produced presented the broad areas of science research that I had identified from the available literature of as being a priority for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with sea country in that region. Within each identified sector, I gave specific examples of research priorities, commented on the existing research on this area and outlined relevant government policy and legislation.

A very interesting and enjoyable project, I learned a lot. By engaging extensively with information about sea country from Aboriginal communities and individuals, I learned about respective priorities and values for caring for country into the future. Furthermore, by reviewing the relevant legislation I also was able to learn about what is outlined in Australian law around these issues. As I do not have a legal background this was quite enlightening for me; how strong particular elements of the law are, as well as what is vague or unlegislated.

While a very interesting project, it was also quite extensive. I found this a challenge and was not able to finish my write up in the time frame given. My supervisor very kindly allowed me to finish my work remotely once I had returned home.

It is difficult to sum up my experience – there is so much more detail and particular insights and learning opportunities I could go into. Overall however, while a challenge, I felt it was so worthwhile. It was invaluable to be able to see how an Indigenous NGO functions and be able to engage with so many different people who are working and, and experts, in this area. Furthermore, I so enjoyed being able to meet and spend time with other interns in Darwin. It was great sharing, and learning from each other’s’ experiences and engaging with other passionate young people. We also had a lot of fun exploring Darwin and the surrounds together outside of work.

I would definitely recommend the Aurora Internship Program to anyone who is interested. Getting experience in a work environment or in the field is invaluable, challenging and enjoyable.