Alexander Zurawski

Social Science
Summer 2018

Nearing the completion of my Development Studies degree, I was eager to gain workplace experience in order to see how I may apply the skills I’ve developed over the course of my degree within the real-world context, as well as making myself more employable upon completion of my degree. Both my dealings with Aurora in facilitating my placement, as well as my six-week internship with the Lowitja Institute, have been entirely positive and an invaluable experience.

Having elected to take a number of Aboriginal Studies subjects over the course of my degree, the Aurora Internship Program had been on my radar for a couple of years prior to my applying. Once accepted into the Program, my need to remain in Melbourne for the internship, combined with an overseas trip in the middle of the summer, meant there were limited options for placement. Despite these challenges, the team at Aurora were eager to work with me to find a suitable solution. Whilst offering to place me through the winter intake, an opportunity with the Lowitja Institute came through at the last minute, willing to both work around my trip and inability to take on full-time hours.

As Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research, and one of my listed preferences for placement, I saw this as an exciting opportunity to gain a greater insight into the Public Health sector, something I’d had limited exposure to through my degree. Not only did I look forward to expanding my knowledge of the area, but also really valued the Institute’s key principles as they fit well with the professional and personal values I have developed through my education and voluntary work.

From the moment I arrived on my first day, I was made to feel a welcomed addition of the small team. Despite my internship supervisor, Leila Smith, being based in Canberra, the warmth with which I was received made me feel both appreciated as another pair of hands on deck, and supported as an inexperienced intern. My welcome pack included a note outlining the tasks I’d be working on, along with plenty of background reading, which set the tone of my internship. I would be working on the Institute’s submission on the recently released Closing the Gap refresh discussion paper and report on the Research Translation Symposium held by the Lowitja Institute and NHMRC in November 2017.

Although I was aware of the Closing the Gap strategy prior to beginning my internship, I hadn’t looked at this in great detail, and had not attended the Symposium held in Canberra. In order to successfully contribute to both of these projects, I had a lot of research to do, and found the often-painstakingly meticulous research process I’d developed over the course of my studies to be of great value and utility. To be involved in something as topical as the Closing the Gap refresh was really exciting and being given the space to find my own way with the work I was involved with, with the guidance of Leila, helped to build confidence in my skills and capacity to contribute effectively to the work of the Institute.

Aside from my involvement with the above projects, I also had the opportunity to attend Knowledge Translation meetings both within the Institute, as well as with researchers whose projects were being funded by Lowitja, and providing secretariat support for international working groups, all of which provided the opportunity to gain a broader insight into the work of the Lowitja Institute and a number of leading academics within the field of Indigenous Health research, here and overseas.

Not only has my time interning at the Lowitja Institute given me confidence in my ability to apply the skills I’ve developed through my tertiary studies to the workplace, but I have also been offered a role as a Research Project Officer at the Lowitja Institute. My internship provided the opportunity to demonstrate my capacity as a valuable team member to both the Institute and myself. This opportunity has been invaluable to both my personal and professional development. I highly recommend the Aurora Internship Program to anyone with an interest in social justice and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs.