Angel Bottaro

Native Title
Winter 2017

An Aurora internship is an excellent, pragmatic means to exploring and deepening one’s theoretical knowledge, through applied experience.  It is more than that however.

As part of Aurora’s 2017 winter round I was offered a place at the Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation’s (BGLC) Wail nursery premises in north-western Victoria.   Keen interests in anthropology and indigenous affairs more broadly, motivated my pursuit of an internship in Native Title.  I believe the real impetus, however, for seeking engagement with an Aboriginal organisation, arose from underlying knowledge at the lack of interaction I have with Aboriginal people, despite having undertaken Aboriginal studies.  Furthermore, the extent to which colonisation continues shaping social relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in post-colonial Victoria was an important aspect of my experience in the Aurora program.

In 2005 the first successful native title determination in south-eastern Australia recognised the Wotjobaluk, Jupagulk, Jadawadjali, Jaadwa and Wergaia peoples as Traditional land Owners of the Grampians, Wimmera and Mallee region claim area.  The BGLC is a Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) under the Victorian Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2006 and the legal representative under the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993 for these family groups. My internship at the BGLC was especially significant to me because my Honours supervisor Raymond Madden was the anthropologist who worked on this claim. 

As an intern I engaged with individuals and organisations involved in the implementation and management of a wide range of programs arising post native title.  Programs included cultural heritage management, the rolling out of a collaborative BGLC/NTSV ‘Caring For Country Plan – “Growing what is Good” (strongly supported by NTSV), land management practices (including traditional forest fire practices), registering intangible heritage (i.e. Tyingal Creation Stories) to secure intellectual property rights, and archaeological projects (Qantong, Halls Gap – Grampians Peak Trail Project - site testing, excavation). 

In my role I participated in several developments feeding into the BGLC’s overall obligations. These included assisting the CEO Michael Stewart in a funding proposal, by writing a literature review for the feasibility of Amegilla chlorocynae (Australian blue banded bees) as pollinators in the BGLC’s new native plant enterprise.

I joined several multi-disciplinary teams at archaeological excavations - (Cooper Heritage Management), and was included in a project proposal, which involved meeting with Traditional Owner (TO) representatives and some of Australia’s prominent archaeologists (Ben Gunn, Simon Haberle, Bruno David) at Gariwerd’s (Grampians) Aboriginal rock art sites (Emu’s Foot Shelter/ Jananginj Njaui), proposed for potential future archaeological investigation. 

Other highlights of my placement included numerous road trips On Country to significant Aboriginal sites, including: Ebenezer Mission, ‘The Ranch’ (Dimboola Common), Dimboola, Antwerp, Pink Lake and Lake Tyrrell, with BGLC TOs (Sandra Knight and Mick Douglas) and fellow Aurora intern Fenella Atkinson. These were organised by RAP Manager Darren Griffin and will be fondly remembered. Darren also included interns’ in the traditional Earth Oven and Bark Canoe re-creation event planning meeting, held at Horseshoe bend – the site of these events (looking forward to joining in during October 2017).

Overall my position as intern was extremely positive. An insider’s perspective enhanced my knowledge of complexities entailed in the roles and obligations of Land Councils (and native title outcomes).  More importantly, it afforded me the opportunity of friendship with the Barengi Gadjin Wotjobaluk community, and the privilege of a more nuanced understanding of Traditional Owner viewpoints. 

Details can be found on the Aurora Internship Program website: 

Applications are open twice a year.  Applications for the winter 2018 round will be open from 5 through 30 March 2018.