Abbey Hoolahan

Native Title
Summer 2020

Whether you’re completing your first or last year of University; an internship with the Aurora Internship Program is something that you will truly be most thankful for.

University can become quite confined and restricted to merely the theoretical side of things. And if you’re anything like me; you’re probably at the point in your degree where you start thinking – ‘ OK so how on earth is this stuff applied and used in a real workplace? What can I do with this degree?’ And that’s where Aurora comes in.

As a third year Law and International Studies student, with a major in Anthropology – I always knew it was quite difficult to find or even hear of situations where the two fields overlapped. Before applying for the internship, I always fell into the trap of thinking that because I studied two fields that were on opposite spectrums – this was more of a burden rather than a strength to my own personal and professional development. And I always felt that I had to sacrifice one or the other in order to find out what career path I could one day take.

It wasn’t until I decided to apply for the Aurora Internship that I realised that I could instead use my passion for both Anthropology and Law in the one workplace.

From November to December 2019, I completed my five-week internship at First Nations Legal and Research Services (“ FNLRS ”), under the supervision of my host supervisor who was the Managing Senior Researcher and Anthropologist of the Research team. The staff at First Nations, from the minute I arrived were always so warm and welcoming and allowed for an environment where learning and asking questions was always encouraged.

For instance, even though I was placed at First Nations as a Research Intern and mainly worked with the Research team; there were also occasions where my supervisor allowed me to be exposed to the Legal side and assist First Nations Lawyers when they needed assistance.

Even though the Research team is small in size, I found that there is a tremendous amount of work and skill that is involved in the preparation and production of Research Reports at First Nations (the initial step to a claim under the Native Title Act (“NTA”) or Traditional Owner Settlement Act (“TOSA”) ). For instance, a lot of the work performed by the Research team can be likened to that of a Family Tree; where the researchers work to infer a connection from the ancestor to the claimant, by firstly meeting Aboriginal community members from the relevant claim area, analysing enormous amounts of external materials on what other researchers have found and drawing their own Anthropological conclusion on this, as well as various other Research tasks.

As a Research Intern I mainly helped summarise endless amounts of material for my supervisors in order to assist them in making their research for their reports faster and more effective. At times this involved reviewing materials at the Public Records Office of Victoria (“ PROV”) which dated back to the 1880’s. During my five weeks, I was also given the opportunity to travel to and attend a meeting with an Aboriginal family in Victoria who were considering whether they wanted to go through the claim process provided by First Nations. This was a highlight for me; as it allowed me to hear first-hand why this recognition process and claims under the Native Title Act or Traditional Owners Settlement Act are important and can also be a very sensitive issue.

This internship placed me in a new environment, where I didn’t know a soul; where I’d never been before and allowed me the opportunity to become more confident and gain more knowledge about native title in Australia. This internship has made me a better student, both personally and professionally. It’s given me the guidance at a time in my studies where I needed it most.

For more information or to apply for the Winter 2020 round of Aurora internships, visit . Applications will be open from 2
through 27 March 2020.