Claire Dodo

Native Title
Summer 2020

Over a seven-week period in the summer of 2020, I had an invaluable experience interning at Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) through the Aurora Internship Program. As a third-year anthropology student I knew that finding practical experience within the field was few and far between, with opportunities such as these ones incredibly difficult to come across. Hence, I am extremely grateful that my time at YMAC introduced me to both office-based anthropology in Perth, as well as traditional fieldwork in Geraldton.


The research team at YMAC gently introduced me to the world of native title with access to the connection (expert) report for a claim coming to determination, in which I was able to read the prolific work of an esteemed anthropological inquiry. From this report I was able to see the integrity associated with interviewing claimants and adequately translating the Indigenous communities’ experiences and values into work accessible to the judicial system. Furthermore, the team at YMAC was consistently more than happy to answer any questions and were extremely open to conversations surrounding their experiences in native title.


As I became comfortable at YMAC, I was given more in-depth tasks involved in the process of repatriation, in which research materials are correctly returned to their rightful owners. These tasks included typing fieldnotes, digitising resources, indexing and filing ethnographic and historical materials. Although these tasks presented themselves in the classic forms of scanning, photocopying and searching through files and files of online documents, they provided me with unbridled access into the depths of research taken by anthropologists at YMAC and indispensable Indigenous knowledge. Throughout these tasks I was given a first-hand view of the work that anthropologist do within native title, and furthermore, had the continual opportunity of an open dialogue with multiple members of the research team. During this time, I was also invited to join the research team as they conducted meetings discussing the work each of them was pursuing, and thus, gained access into the challenges and frustrations of their jobs, whilst also witnessing how the team worked with the claimants and other parts of YMAC (legal, business, GIS) in order to sufficiently work.


Moreover, I also learnt how to use programs for genealogical charting in which I had no knowledge on prior, such as family tree maker. Before interning at YMAC, I was unaware of the importance and relevance of family mapping to native title and the integral part anthropologists play in creating such accurate information. This part of my internship was greatly important to my experience at YMAC as I learnt how to use the relevant software, whilst accessing the logistical documents in which Yamatji and Marlpa Indigenous peoples fill out to access the appropriate claims, services, and information.   


In my fifth week at YMAC, I accompanied two anthropologists to Geraldton for the purposes of collating research materials and completing fieldwork for objecting to a mining company’s exploration licence. On my first day in Geraldton we drove on Country to meet two elders, who were incredibly welcoming and keen to talk about the importance of their Country. Spending the day with these two men was the best opportunity I have had throughout not only my time at YMAC, but also my path in becoming an anthropologist. Listening and working with such passionate and deeply connected people truly demonstrated the importance of native title in privileging the voices of our first nation people. During my time in Geraldton I also worked within the office, collating and organising research materials that spread across the Perth office as well. Moreover, I participated in an interview with another elder for the previous claim, which enabled me to practice my skills in note taking and provided insight into a native title interview.


My time at YMAC due to the Aurora internship was an incredible experience in which I gained valuable information and skills, difficult to come across within my field. The research team at YMAC were extremely welcoming with their willingness to openly discuss their own journeys being an indispensable aspect of my internship. I would encourage anyone interested in the Indigenous sector to apply for an Aurora internship as I found not only the content highly stimulating, but the accompanying support in completing it irreplaceable. Being able to participate in this sector for seven weeks has only increased my passion and desire to work within Indigenous rights in the future. 


For more information about the Aurora Internship Program, visit Applications for the summer 2020/21 round will be open in August.