Alison Conant

Organisation: 
Stream: 
Social Science
Sector: 
Environment/Heritage
Location: 
Broome
Round: 
Winter 2016

The Aurora Internship Program is an amazing opportunity to get real world experience in the indigenous sector, before (or in my case, after) you finish uni!

When I applied for the Aurora Internship Program, I never dreamed I would be offered a placement in remote WA! I had come across the program by chance while searching for graduate jobs, and my keen interest in both social justice issues and Aboriginal culture led me to apply. I was surprised and elated when I was offered the chance to work with YMAC’s Indigenous ranger group in Bidyadanga community, a small Aboriginal town two hours south of Broome.

The experience has definitely exceeded my expectations and given me an amazing insight into what it’s like to work in the Indigenous sector.

For the duration of my internship, I worked with the Nyangumarta Rangers, a relatively new indigenous ranger group who, supported by YMAC, manage the Nyangumarta Warrarn Indigenous Protected Area.  The program forms a platform for Nyangumarta elders to pass on the cultural and environmental knowledge of their lands to younger generations, in order to keep their connection to Country strong. Rangers are tasked with integrating this traditional knowledge with other land management practices to protect significant sites and manage on-Country resources.

This was certainly a program I could get behind! And my role turned out to be very diverse. While my background was in environmental studies, I soon found myself doing a bit of everything. I helped to catalogue photos and videos so they could be accessed more easily, and started an inventory of all the equipment at the base. I weeded and watered plants, cleaned camping equipment, and demonstrated to some of the rangers how to conduct basic water testing.

One of my early projects was to design and write the Ranger group’s first community newsletter. This involved talking to the Ranger’s about all their incredible field trips and training they had done in the past year. This was an amazing experience as I was privileged to hear the Ranger’s express their thoughts and feelings about the program, their culture and their Country.

During my stay, I was also given the opportunity to travel to Perth for a week to work in YMAC’s head office while my supervisor attended cultural awareness training. Going back to the city allowed me to appreciate how truly different life in a remote community actually is and, at the same time, glimpse the challenges that Native Title Representative Bodies like YMAC face behind-the-scenes. I even had an opportunity to meet other Perth-based Aurora interns and hear about their experiences on placement!

Of course, working closely in a remote community for 6 weeks without my regular social support networks was undoubtedly challenging, but the benefits far outweighed the drawbacks. One of the best things about the Aurora Internship Program is being able to meet the inspiring people within these communities, who give you the chance to broaden (and sometimes completely overhaul) your perspective on remote populations.

The most rewarding aspect of my time at YMAC was thus the opportunity to go ‘out on country’ with the Nyangumarta Rangers. This was an absolutely unforgettable experience where I was able to connect with the Rangers in a more informal setting, and I could tell that they were proud to show me their Country. One of the Rangers even found me some bush nuts, which in his words, “taste like almonds, only better.”

On a day-to-day level, I truly enjoyed working with YMAC. I was absolutely blown away by the support of my supervisor, who gave an honest insight into the nature of his work and who also provided me with accommodation when our first arrangements fell through. The staff at the Perth office were also incredibly welcoming and helped me immensely to settle into my short stay in the WA capital.

In career terms, I have gained a lot from this short experience. I had never contemplated working in the Indigenous sector before, as it’s not a sector you hear about every day. As an environment graduate, it’s common to find work with the Department of Environment or an international not-for-profit organisation upon graduation. Aurora and YMAC have allowed me to expand my perspective beyond this singular route and have provided me with a totally new space to apply my skills in a diverse and engaging sector, which I hope to learn even more about in the coming years.

I am grateful to both Aurora and YMAC for the opportunities and experiences made available to me as part of my internship in Bidyadanga and I would highly recommend Aurora’s Internship Program to anyone who is keen to deepen their knowledge of Indigenous affairs and social justice.

For further details, please visit

http://www.auroraproject.com.au/what_is_an_Aurora_internship.

. Applications for the summer 2016/17 round of internships close on Friday 26th August 2016.