Deborah Hoger

Native Title
Alice Springs
Summer 2011

After completing a Bachelor of Arts and Science mid 2010 and beginning an Honours degree in Anthropology later in the year, I realised that I was still at somewhat of a loss as to the practical career pathways available to budding anthropologists. I had studied anthropology for several years and loved its theoretical aspects, yet nearing the end of my studies; I felt I needed a way to experience a taste of just what an anthropologist does in the work-field. An Aurora anthropology internship provided me with the perfect way to find out just this.

In February 2011, I began my six week internship with the Central Land Council (CLC), based in the heart of Australia in Alice Springs. You can imagine my excitement at being placed in a location such as Alice Springs! It was to be six weeks of invaluable work experience. My supervisor provided me with a diverse range of activities to introduce me to the world of native title and the role of the anthropologist within it.

I spent some of my time inputting site information into the sites database, which provided me with a unique opportunity to read about some of the local Jukurrpa (dreaming tracks). I was lucky enough to accompany some anthropologists out on a field trip to several remote Aboriginal communities, including Papunya, Mt. Liebig and Yuendumu, and here I witnessed consultations with traditional owners and other community members. These trips put some of the dreamings that I had read about into context, with the anthropologists pointing aspects of them out to me in the landscape as we drove out to the communities. This was definitely a highlight of the trip; it was really quite amazing to see how the landscape is quite literally immersed in Aboriginal sites and dreamings. Coming from a suburban area on the eastern coast of Australia it is sometimes easy to forget this.

While these field trips were somewhat of an added bonus, I also thoroughly enjoyed the day to day work I undertook in the office. I was asked early on by my supervisor to put together a literature review on the joint management of national parks; this proved to be an extremely relevant task to me personally, as I was in the middle of completing my honours thesis, which was based on this very issue.

Towards the conclusion of my internship, I was given the opportunity to assist in some anthropological research for an upcoming mining meeting in the South Tanami region. Information needed to be gathered relating to which Aboriginal groups belonged to the particular areas that were relevant to the meeting. This was quite an interesting task, involving reading through a range of anthropological files, picking out relevant bits of information and putting them together to create a rough map which associated particular groups with particular areas. From this map we then put together a list of which people should be attending this meeting. From my perspective, this was an excellent task for me to assist in, as it emphasised to me the complexities of the sorts of responsibilities that anthropologists working in a land council must fulfil.

My experience as an intern with the Central Land Council was truly an invaluable opportunity to observe and take part in, the day to day activities of an anthropologist working in a place like Alice Springs. This internship allowed me to place my university studies of anthropology into a real and pragmatic context, and thus gain an in-depth understanding of how anthropology has a significant influence on the lives of many Indigenous people, particularly those living in remote areas such as Alice Springs. As an Indigenous person myself, I found the whole experience particularly rewarding, and I look forward to pursuing a career in Indigenous affairs.

I would recommend this internship to any student or graduate wishing to pursue a career as an anthropologist. There are quite simply very limited opportunities to experience firsthand the day to day duties of an anthropologist working in a native title body and The Aurora Project opened up that door for me. The internship program offers 5 to 6 week unpaid internship at all 15 NTRBs around Australia as well as at over 50 other Indigenous organisations working in land rights, policy development, human rights and social justice