Christina Liu

Native Title
Winter 2017

There are some times that life seems like a preconceived puzzle and the pieces obligingly fall into place without much guidance. My experience with Aurora has been almost postcard perfect, and I cannot believe my luck and good timing while on placement.


The Aurora Internship Program endeavors to introduce, integrate, and inspire those who are interested in Indigenous affairs. Whether this means being placed in a native title or other Indigenous sector focused organisation, it offers a rare chance to gain insight into the inner workings of these organisations. I was keen to see native title in action, and thus was placed with Central Desert Native Title Services.


Upon arrival, I immediately felt welcomed by the staff and knew I could feel at home here. The first week I spent reading connection reports on a particular claim, because as luck would have it, there was a determination scheduled for the next week and I was asked to come along to help! That four-day trip out Cosmo Newberry way was the best introduction to native title anyone could have asked for. Seeing such a tightknit community of claimants and subsequently their formal recognition of native title at a gorgeous site that has been frequented for generations was an unforgettable experience. Though I was new to the process, I knew I was witnessing history being made and could tangibly feel the emotion in the atmosphere. This was the fruition of decades of hard work in native title. As an intern, I helped wherever I was needed, which basically entailed organising and setting up equipment and preparing meals. I also was able to converse with an expert consultant anthropologist who had previously worked on the claim and had come for the determination. Being able to tap into his extensive knowledge base is worth mentioning in its own right.


Back at the office I started doing little tasks such as reformatting genealogies, filing cultural documents on Central Desert’s internal server, and compiling research documents from an active connection report. Though almost unheard of, by the end of my week back I had been invited to join another trip; this time for an authorization meeting. Being the other end of the process from the determination, it perfectly complimented my previous trip. This time the meeting was more remote and required days of driving into the bush. I didn’t mind, however, as the Kimberley region is beautiful country. My tasks were largely the same on this trip, but I was allowed to be privy to intimate meetings between families as genealogies and boundaries were discussed and negotiated. Meeting the Traditional Owners in this context was a privilege as they talked about their histories and sometimes openly and passionately defended it.


As the end of my six-week placement drew near, I started to mourn the brevity of such a wonderful experience. Turns out that was unwarranted, as by the end of my last week I was offered a six-week extension to continue my work reformatting old genealogies. I’m very excited to stay with Central Desert a little longer, and am relishing my extra time. This experience has certainly opened up new avenues of thought and action for my future career in anthropology, and I would strongly recommend anyone interested in native title to pursue an internship through the Aurora Internship Program. More information can be found at 

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