The Aurora Internship Program is an exceptional program designed to support law, anthropology and social science students and graduates to undertake work experience with key organisations in the area of native title and the broader Indiegbnous sector. I applied for a social science Aurora Internship back in winter 2015 and had postponed the start date of my program due to an employment opportunity that became available at the time. However the idea of undertaking an Aurora Internship and gaining a better understanding of the Indigenous native title Sector continued to resonate in my head, so when the time was right I decided to go ahead. I was offered a placement at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) located in Canberra to work across the area of Native Title and Land and Sea Management. Moving interstate for a period of 5 weeks was initially a little daunting, however after familiarising myself with the powerful and positive contribution that AIATSIS has brought in the area of Indigenous affairs it soon became a personal aspiration to see the work of AIATSIS with my own eyes.
I worked alongside Dr Rod Kennett and Luke Smyth and was given the initial task to redesign a stakeholder database to facilitate the communication of AIATSIS with key Government, academic and community relevant bodies. I was also in charge building a database to record and store information about all Indigenous Ranger Programs across Australia. I recorded crucial information about the ranger programs including sources of funding, natural resource management activities, cultural heritage practices and community engagement projects. Thanks to this research I have developed a deep appreciation and better understanding of how Indigenous communities are using traditional knowledge today to protect and care for the environment, traditional cultures and communities in Australia. This aligns closely with my personal interest about the crucial significance of traditional Indigenous knowledge in the face of climate change today, topic in which I based my University Honours thesis.
Throughout my internship I was also asked to help with various tasks including preparing material for meetings and contacting PBCs for access to material regarding the ranger programs. I also helped with finding publicly available data regarding community-based land management plans. Through this research I was fascinated to read and learn about Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements (TUMRAs) and Indigenous Land Agreements (ILUAS) and the involvement that traditional communities have had in the joint management of parks, land and sea areas. Thanks to my internship I was able to refine my skills in data entry, data base management, research and analysis.
I found the workplace at AIATSIS very friendly and open to multicultural diversity. Wednesdays were my favourite days of the week as I was able to help another staff member with her Spanish lessons for all staff in the office during lunch breaks. I was very excited to see the high level of interest and participation around the office, including among senior staff members. These lunch sessions resembled more of an open space for cultural exchange, where stories and experiences about Latin American and Australian cultures (including indigenous and non-indigenous) were shared with everyone in the class.
I would recommend future AIATSIS interns to immerse in all activities that occur at AIATSIS, you will receive constant news about reports, political announcements and events related to Indigenous Affairs. I was lucky enough to be present during Stan Grant’s book launch, the film screening of the marvellous film ‘the Putuparri and the Rainmakers’ with Q&A with the film director and the protagonist, and talks about Indigenous identity through dance practices. I also visited the famous Tent Embassy and paid my respect to the elders of the area. I am leaving Canberra with a whole new world of knowledge, networks and ideas that I would have never acquired if I had not decided to step out of the comfortable bubble that is Sydney.
I would encourage all students and graduates in the areas of Law, Anthropology and Social Sciences to pursue an internship through the Aurora Internship Program. For more information and to hear from the experiences of other past interns please visit http://www.auroraproject.com.au/aurorainternshipprogram.