After completing a legal unit on comparative Indigenous rights early in 2017, I was eager to learn more about how the law regarding native title functioned in Victoria. The Aurora internship gave me the perfect opportunity to follow this interest.
I completed my six week internship in Melbourne at the First Nations Legal and Research Services (FNLRS), formerly Native Title Services Victoria. I was pleasantly surprised at the breadth of work that I was able to undertake, as well as the extensive knowledge and skills that I took away from the experience. Perhaps most importantly, I came away feeling much more positive about the system of native title in Victoria than when I began. In studying comparative Indigenous rights across Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia, I had been very aware of the shortcomings of Australia’s Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). However, on commencing my internship at FNLRS, I very quickly became aware of the role of the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) and the positive impact that this was having in advancing Indigenous rights in Victoria. It has been particularly interesting to learn about how these two Acts interact with each other.
During my internship I took on a wide range of tasks, from reviewing and responding to future act notifications, to researching the impact of new pipi fishing laws on Traditional Owners. While I completed a number of more administrative tasks, such as reviewing and filing the minutes and membership documents for one of FNLRS’ client corporations, there were also some very interesting research tasks that proved to be very challenging and rewarding. A highlight of my internship was certainly the opportunity to attend an on Country launch of the Barengi Gadjin Land Council’s new Country Plan. This was a great opportunity to meet some of the members and hear them speak about the importance of this Country Plan and the many relationships that it is built around.
It’s been fantastic to learn so much about this area of law and get a real insight into what it would be like to work in this area. I found that the cohesive team environment of FNLRS, alongside the varied nature of the work makes it a very inviting and engaging place to work. I felt that I gained both new knowledge and skills from this experience, and also had the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the work being conducted by FNLRS. I felt very supported in the work that I did at FNLRS. The staff always ensured that I had interesting work to do, as well as taking the time to explain and discuss their own work with me.
I would highly recommend an internship through the Aurora Internship Program to any legal or social science students and graduates looking to expand their skills and learn more about native title or the Indigenous sector more broadly. Applications for the Aurora Internship Program are open in summer and winter each year.