Clare Ammenhauser

Social Science
Native Title
Winter 2008

The Aurora Project seeks to introduce students to career opportunities in the area of native title and Indigenous affairs and at the same time provides assistance to under-resourced and over-worked staff who work in Australia’s Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs), Native Title Service Providers (NTSPs) and Indigenous policy and other organisations.

I applied for the Aurora Native Title Internship Program in order to gain on the ground experience in a field that I have long been interested in. As an archaeology graduate/law student the Project facilitated an effective amalgamation of the two disciplines.

I was given the opportunity to undertake my internship at the Dugalanji Aboriginal Corporation (DAC) which is located near Camooweal, approximately 180km north-west of Mount Isa. DAC manages two registered native title claims and associated future act activity on behalf of the Indilandji/Dhidhau People who are the traditional owners of the surrounding area.

Packing and preparing for the internship had coincided with exam week. Thus, admittedly these matters had not rated highly amongst my list of priorities before departing. However, my concern that I would lack the requisite knowledge and/or provisions was soon quashed as my supervisor and others at DAC were very welcoming and willing to share their insights of native title and associated issues.

Prior to the internship I had been warned to have no expectations regarding the work that I may or may not be assigned. Having completed the internship I would rate my experience very highly. Whilst on placement I observed and assisted in:
• cultural heritage clearances conducted with the traditional owners;
• various meetings with Queensland South Native Titles Services and Mains Roads.
• the redrafting of DAC’s constitution in order to comply with the new Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth);
• issuing written responses to exploratory mining Grant Notifications;
• stone tool manufacture;
• creating a database of future acts;
• legal research into matters ranging from current rules governing tax concessions for charities to Indigenous community welfare reform.

I was also fortunate to travel out to a nearby community where I met some resilient and determined individuals.   I found the most rewarding aspect of the placement the interraction with such a diverse array of people. The camp consisted of permanent staff, traditional owners, visiting archaelogists and compliance officers and the occasional mining magnate. It was a melting pot of perspectives on native title and cultural heritage management.

I would highly recommend the Aurora Native Title Internship Program to anyone with a genuine interest in native title and Indigenous affairs. I would like to thank DAC staff and management, and my fellow intern for their combined support and kindness during my placement at the Dugalanji Aboriginal Corporation.