Amy Pettifer

Social Science
Summer 2018

My six weeks spent at Aboriginal Victoria (AV) via the Aurora Internship Program was more rewarding than I could have imagined. As a Masters student nearing the end of my rather broad and interdisciplinary degree, the opportunity provided by Aurora to gain solid vocational experience in a government department was invaluable.

I heard about Aurora through a friend in my policy class at RMIT and a few friends studying Indigenous Studies at Melbourne University, some of whom had already undertaken an Aurora internship and spoke of it glowingly. At first I was concerned that I wouldn’t even get a look in, as I needed to stay in Melbourne over the summer and I hadn’t undertaken a degree explicitly focused on Indigenous studies. I was, however, extremely interested in how Indigenous affairs are framed within the areas of environmental policy and planning. Following some very helpful interactions with Aurora staff, I decided to apply on the very slim chance I’d be placed within Melbourne at an organisation that had some focus on policy. I was originally offered a placement with a cultural heritage group in Bendigo, but my financial situation made it difficult for me to be able to leave Melbourne for the summer. Upon informing Aurora placements team of this predicament, they were incredibly understanding and helpful, working with me to find something that would suit.

Ultimately I was placed at AV, which was an incredibly exciting and enriching learning experience. Being a government department, the work environment was highly supportive, buzzing with passionate people and charged with a sense of controlled chaos. I had half- anticipated my work to consist of filing and coffee runs, however much to my surprise, my supervisors were quick to assign me with truly exciting and meaningful work. The overarching project that I was assisting with was the review of the Aboriginal Lands Act 1970 (Vic). The review had been announced a year prior and was at a stage where AV was establishing initial arrangements to commence the review and liaising with the Lake Tyers and Framlingham Aboriginal Trusts. I was assigned the task of procuring a probity service, which required me to liaise with the procurements team, set up meetings with the potential contractor and establish a broad scope of works. I was excited to be asked to lead a meeting with the potential contractors - this kind of trust was consistently bestowed on me by my supervisors, which challenged and humbled me in equal parts.

Between assisting with that work, I was tasked with writing briefs for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and the Deputy Secretary; synthesising information and correspondence to produce summaries of issues; taking minutes in meetings; assisting with the Aboriginal Honour Roll event; arranging interviews for a role in our team; fact-checking documents; drafting correspondence from the Director of AV; and some of the menial tasks with which I originally imagined I would be helping - not without profuse apologies from my colleagues for giving me boring work.

Beyond the practical public sector skills I gleaned through my work at AV, I was extremely grateful for the friendships and networks I established in my time there. My colleagues were incredibly supportive of me and my goals to work in the area of Aboriginal policy; they introduced me to senior staffers in the Treaty Working Group Team, sent me job vacancies that they thought I would be suited for and even tried to have a role created for me. It was truly heartwarming and encouraging to see how much they valued my work, which has given me the confidence to apply for roles for which I would have never perceived myself to be qualified. The whole experience with AV and Aurora also benefited me by confirming that important progress and work can be achieved at a government level as well as at a community level.