I spent five weeks of my summer interning at a Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) in Perth, Western Australia, over 3000 km away from my home in Hobart via the Aurora Internship Program. Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) is responsible for 23 native title claims and conducts the legal and anthropological work for these claims. Their work includes getting the claims recognized by government and managing access to the areas for non-Indigenous people and companies. Much of their time is spent reaching agreements with different mining and exploration companies in the area.
While I interned there I got to help out with a number of projects. These included helping develop a site register of Aboriginal archaeological sites for the Nanda Connection Report. After years of work the Report was actually submitted during my last week at YMAC and it was very exciting to be a part of that. I was also given the opportunity to develop my computer skills and taught to use GIS (global information systems) mapping software, which was used to map the claims, and Aboriginal sites of significance within the claims. I also helped out doing office work including electronic filling, printing and binding of documents. As a not-for-profit they are often under staffed and these were tasks that only got completed when volunteers were available.
Working in an NTRB is a unique opportunity and unlike working anywhere else. Claims take decades to get approved and agreed, and in the meantime the NTRB has to deal with companies wanting access to the land. Spatial data is especially important and if mistakes occur regarding the location of sites they can be destroyed in a matter of hours.
I left Hobart without even the ability to pronounce the name of the organization I was to work for! I returned 5 weeks later with a newfound respect and understanding for the people who work in native title.