Dacia Abela

Summer 2015

Native title and Indigenous affairs has always been something I was interested in as a law/arts student, but a topic that in my opinion is never given enough attention in the units we study at university. When I came across the Aurora Internship Program, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to gain practical experience in a relevant workplace and also learn more about native title as well as alternative legal careers in the Indigenous sector. 

The Aurora Project was developed in 2006 in response to a report into the professional development needs of Native Title Representative Bodies, and has now expanded to include broader areas of Indigenous affairs.  The Internship Program places students and graduates in Native Title Representative Bodies, Prescribed Bodies Corporate and other organisations working in the area of policy development, social justice, all with an Indigenous focus, around all of Australia. Not only does the internship provide invaluable and practical experience to help students and graduates sharpen their legal skills, but also provides much needed assistance to often underfunded, under resourced and overworked organisations. 

I was pleased to be placed at the Agreements Treaties and Negotiated Settlements (ATNS) Project in Melbourne.  The ATNS Project is an Australian Research Council Linkage Project with the aim of examining treaty and agreement-making with Indigenous Australians and the nature of the cultural, social and legal rights encompassed by past, present and potential agreements and treaties. The project is headed by many well-known academics including the Chief Investigator, Professor Marcia Langton.  

During my 4 week internship my main task pertained to updating and maintaining the ATNS database. The database provides public access to a repository of agreements made with and by Indigenous people in Australia and overseas. The purpose of the database is to identify the broad ranging characteristics, conditions and forms of agreements. Accompanied by background information, links to related agreements, information relating to relevant organisations, signatories and events and an extensive glossary, the database is a rich academic resource. The Database seeks to link current and historical information regarding agreement-making, and places this information against a backdrop of valuable research resources.  By summarising such agreements for the database I quickly learnt the complexity of native title and familiarised myself with the content, structure and terminology of Indigenous agreements. Other tasks I undertook included assistance with the project’s Progress Report, on working papers, various research duties and assisting with inquiries from the public. During my internship I was also lucky enough to attend a few events, including the annual NARRM oration at the University of Melbourne and the ATNS Christmas party. 

The team at ATNS were truly hospitable and supportive during my internship. I learnt a wealth of new information and I am so pleased that I embarked on this journey with the Aurora Project. I would recommend applying for an Aurora internship to any legal or social sciences student or graduate interested in native title, Indigenous affairs or social justice more broadly. More information about Aurora Internships can be found on their website at http://www.auroraproject.com.au/what_is_an_Aurora_internship.