Chloe Thomas

Native Title
Summer 2018

I was incredibly lucky to have been hosted by the KLC for a five-week internship via the Aurora Internship Program. Being a recent graduate, the experience was especially valuable in opening my eyes to an alternative pathway in law and clarifying my career aspirations to include further work in the Indigenous sector.

The host organisation
The KLC began in the pre-Mabo era as an advocacy body and has grown to be the peak Native Title Representative Body in the Kimberley region. The office buzzes with the activity of its various units, including legal, native title, anthropology and land and sea management. It was inspiring to see people from diverse disciplines working together with the same vision.
On top of that, the staff are unbelievably welcoming and hospitable. I remember reading in Aurora’s ‘Hints and Tips by Location’ about how sociable the KLC is and I certainly found this to be true. As someone coming from out of town, I was grateful for the opportunities to socialise with people outside of work – from fishing trips and dinner parties to social badminton.

The type of work I did
I was placed in the Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs) area of the legal team where I was entrusted with meaningful and challenging work from the first day. The majority of my work was research-based with a view to long-term policy development, including:

  • researching different PBC governance structures throughout Australia;
  • summarising case law; and
  • drafting toolkits for PBCs on the Native Title Act and CATSI Act compliance.

The highlight of my internship was going on country to take the minutes of a PBC meeting. It was a privilege to be there where I learned a lot through observation. In our down time, we went fishing with a couple of the community members. Our delicious dinner of dugong and stingray was one I’ll never forget.

What I gained from the experience
The internship was my first hands-on experience in native title. On a technical level, it allowed me to develop my legal research skills, plain English drafting skills and my understanding of the mechanics of native title law. On a personal level, the experience opened my eyes to a significant and rich part of Australia’s cultural history, which is too often brushed over at school and university. I was able to observe first-hand the challenges faced by Aboriginal communities in taking control of their country, as well as the potential for self-empowerment through conservation and cultural business enterprises. This has motivated me to pursue further career opportunities in native title.
If you are interested in native title or want to explore an alternative career pathway in law, I would strongly encourage you to apply.