Alistair Graham

Social Science
Native Title
Summer 2015

From January to April in 2015 I completed two Aurora placements, one in Melbourne and one in Alice Springs, as part of the Aurora Internship program summer 2014/15 round.

Native Title Services Victoria (NTSV)

In January and February of 2015 I completed a history internship at Native Title Services Victoria in Melbourne, where I was placed with the historians as part of the research team.

Coming from Perth, I had very little knowledge of Victorian Aboriginal history or of how the native title process worked in Victoria. However, my supervisors were very friendly and great at answering my questions, educating me, and giving me time and encouragement to educate myself on this subject. 

Most of the tasks I was assigned centred around reading primary sources as part of preparatory research for a claim that NTSV was working on.  I found these primary sources fascinating, and, as the historians were keen on thoroughness, I enjoyed having the freedom to pursue tangents that caught my interest. This internship gave me the chance put into practice skills I had learnt during my undergraduate degree. I especially appreciated reading through the letters and journals of early Victorian pioneers, historians and anthropologists to see their perspective of colonisation, while also seeing how such information has become central to the native title process today.

NTSV is very well set-up for interns, with the staff being welcoming and friendly. Staff members took time to get to know me and find out about my career interests and give advice and assistance where possible, but also to involve myself and the other interns in social activities. Their office is located in North Melbourne, which is only a short tram ride from the CBD and is a hub for cafes, lunch bars and pubs in its own right.

All in all, I strongly recommend NTSV to anyone wanting to undertake an internship as a historian or in any of the other anthro, social science or legal areas as you’ll surely learn a lot and meet a lot of interesting people working in an interesting field.

Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS)

A week after NTSV, I was placed with CAALAS in Alice Springs for a legal internship.

I spent most of this internship with the criminal team down at the Alice Springs Magistrate’s Court. This internship was very hands on. I shadowed lawyers as they interviewed clients in the cells, sat in on a number of hearings, went out to rehabilitation facilities, and took basic instructions from clients who presented themselves to the legal aid office at the court house. 

The most rewarding and interesting thing I did while at CAALAS was helping with the research for a criminal trial. My supervisor asked me to research a few different evidentiary issues, and then was great at asking me questions about how the criminal process worked and how she was going about preparing for the trial. The hearing was bumped up to be a jury trial in front of the Supreme Court, and I was lucky enough to be able to sit up at the bar table while the trial was run.  I had never seen a jury trial before and so the whole experience was fascinating.

I was also lucky enough to go out to a sitting of the bush Court in Kintore, which is a remote community about 500km west of Alice Springs right near the border with Western Australia. The drive there and back was stunning, as the road goes through the West MacDonnell Ranges, past Haasts Bluff and Mount Liebig.  While there, I took basic instructions from different clients, and then watched the court run for the day. The staff at CAALAS are friendly, are great for advice on things to do around town and were sure to invite me along to Friday night drinks. Alice is a small place and their office is close to everything. Alice itself is a great town, especially so for all the outdoor activities around town.

I would recommend CAALAS to anyone interested in a legal internship as it has been a very different experience, much more hands-on than internships I have done in Perth and a great way to get an idea of what the Aboriginal legal service in a remote centre is like.