David Reger

Aboriginal Land Councils
Winter 2016

This past winter semester break, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the Aurora Internship Program’s 2016 winter round of internships. The Aurora Project is an organisation which arranges full-time, unpaid internships for students and graduates at organisations working in the native title and broader Indigenous sector around Australia.


I spent four weeks in the legal team at the Kimberley Land Council (KLC) - a Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) established under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) - located in the beautiful and sunny coastal town of Broome, in Western Australia’s north-west.


The only way to adequately describe the experience I had at the KLC - and Broome more generally - was that it was unforgettable. During my three-day drive from Perth, I realised that I had no idea what to expect, but I was determined to approach the experience with a keen sense of eagerness and with an open mind.


From the minute I arrived in town on a sunny Sunday afternoon, any doubts I may have had were quelled in an instant - I felt waves of both warmth and welcome, and I knew that this was going to be an incredible time.


I stayed with my supervising solicitor, who went to great lengths to personally ensure I was both comfortable, and that I saw as much of Broome and the wider Kimberley region as is possible in four weeks. As I discovered very quickly, people in Kimberley are extremely friendly, and take you at face value. When I arrived at KLC on Monday morning, everyone in the office was extremely friendly and welcoming, and it wasn’t long before I felt completely at home.


During my time at the KLC, I was exposed to some fantastic legal work experience, which not only built up my practical legal skillset, but allowed me to realise interest in areas of law I hadn’t previously considered, in particular – litigation. I felt very fortunate to be working on the Middle Dampier Peninsula Claim currently being litigated in the Federal Court.


 Some of the duties I undertook while at the KLC were:


Legal research and case analysis; including the preparation of file notes for senior solicitors;
Identifying and extracting relevant portions of witness statements, to assist in establishing traditional owners’ connection to the land in regard to native title litigation;
Taking notes during a telephone-conducted Federal Court hearing;
Taking minutes at meetings (including corporation Board meetings) both in office and out on country;
Travelling to various remote locations across the Kimberley to assist professional legal staff; and
Collating and proofing various legal documents.


As incredible as the work experience aspect of my time in Broome was, it was the incidental experiences, the people and culture I was exposed to as a result of working at a remote Rep Body in the Kimberley that will truly stick with me.


The highlight of my internship was attending a community celebration outside Fitzroy Crossing for a native title claim determination that was handed down in late 2015. This was a pretty special day, and I felt honoured to be involved.


Another incredible experience that comes to mind was a staff get-together to farewell two KLC staff members who were to be leaving the country. Not many offices are so tight-knit that staff members organise to get together on the weekend, let alone organise a two-night camping trip 200km out of town, at a secluded coastal bay. The image of 50-odd staff, friends and family sitting around an enormous camp fire on the back of utes and logs, surrounded by striking red pindan dirt, while the sun sets through the coolabah trees, was truly amazing.


My advice to anyone considering an Aurora internship is to take the opportunity without hesitation and apply. The Program is suited to anyone with an interest in native title, land rights, social justice, policy development, research and Indigenous issues generally. Bring a sense of adventure and an open mind – and go for it.


Applications are now open for the 2016/17 summer round of Aurora Project’s internships, and will close at 5pm AEDT on Friday 26th August 2016.