During the winter break of 2017, I completed a four week internship with the Northern Land Council (NLC) through the Aurora Internship Program. By way of background, the NLC is a statutory body that represents and consults with the Traditional Owners of Aboriginal land. The legal branch completes work in relation to the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) 1976 (Cth) (otherwise known as ALRA) and a wide range of other pieces of legislation.
I feel incredibly privileged to have completed my internship with the NLC. Throughout the entirety of my internship, I was kept stimulated and challenged, and felt that I was able to make a genuine contribution to the NLC’s work.
During my time in the NLC head office in Darwin, I was delegated work that allowed me to build a practical understanding of Native Title and Land Rights. One of my primary roles, and one which I found to be really enjoyable, was assisting lawyers and NLC staff in preparation for consultations with Traditional Owners. I was able to produce consultation and presentation materials with respect to leases of Aboriginal Land. This process is a key part of the NLC’s work in ensuring Traditional Owners have given their informed consent to the lease, and are able to effectively manage and attain the benefits of the land. I found this experience to be particularly valuable, as I had little working knowledge of what happens after a successful determination of Native Title has been made or land has been granted as Aboriginal Land.
I was also extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to assist the NLC with two consultations out bush. The first consultation concerned Land Trust and Native Title land in East Arnhem Land, which allowed me to travel to Gulkula, which is 40 minutes out of the township of Nhulunbuy, located 900 km East of Darwin. The second consultation I attended was held in the East Kimberley region of Kununurra and concerned authorisation of a “future act” (something done to/on the Native Title land). Both of these locations were stunning, to say the very least, and gave me valuable insight into some of the unique logistical and cultural challenges of working in remote communities.
Working with the NLC was therefore both rewarding and challenging in equal measure. I was forced to confront some of the realities and limitations of Native Title and ALRA, and the tensions and difficulties that may emerge within Indigenous communities as a result of them. I would most certainly recommend the Aurora Internship Program to anyone interested in the process of claiming and managing Aboriginal land, or the law relating to Indigenous justice more generally.
For more information about the Program check out the website: http://auroraproject.com.au/about-internship-program. Applications for the summer 2017/2018 round close on Friday 25th August 2017.