Ellena Holm

Native Title
Alice Springs
Summer 2020

For the past five weeks, the Aurora Internship Program provided me with the incredible opportunity to intern in the Community Development unit of the Central Land Council. Before I left, I heard of the many great things CLC has been doing and has done. Many of my peers informed me that an internship here in the community development unit would provide experience in the field like no-where else in Australia. Community Development in Central Australia is truly unique. Here, self-determination and agency of the Indigenous constituents are not just buzzwords, as these terms can often be. The most important lesson for me was how the CD Unit manages projects that are created and led by their constituents. These past five weeks have given me a chance to put skills learnt throughout my education into practice, as well as extending these learnings and providing specific knowledge on complex development situations. Not only have I experienced many different situations within community development, but my knowledge about the complexities of Native Title and Land Rights has grown. None of the skills learnt in this context would have been accessible in a university classroom.

The workplace itself has been incredibly welcoming and inviting. Despite my complete lack of experience, I have felt part of a team here. It became very clear how important a strong team and a healthy work-life balance is in such a complex and highly emotional field. The projects I was working on were very varied, across the many different regions and projects. The work itself was mostly reviewing, annotating and creating internal documents, but this allowed me to thoroughly research many of the complex projects within the CD Unit. Learning the ins and outs of the Uluru Rent Money Project and the Warlpiri Education and Training Trust has been extraordinarily valuable. Although I was mostly working at a computer, hearing the CD Officers coming and going, learning about their trips to the field gave me an insight into how the work here was far from just being at a desk.

A meeting facilitation workshop was one of the highlights for me, hearing how staff across CLC use meetings to make important decisions, provide information, evaluate projects and build relationships. Even as the least experienced person in the room, I felt comfortable to ask any question here. I could see that in meetings and consultations, the skills I learnt through anthropology would be important. Having co-workers confirm the uses of anthropology in community development was incredibly affirming, as I have always wanted to learn more about how the practical skills theorised through years of university could be applied outside of academia.

In the second half the internship, I have been out to communities with officers from two separate projects. Both of these experiences were incredible individually, and gave me the chance to see projects I had spent weeks reading about. Not only that, I heard first hand from the constituents how they felt about the projects and the processes. In these meetings, I learnt how far a cup of tea and just listening can go in creating relationships. It also opened my eyes to the complex place of CLC in community development here, as a kind of ‘middle-man’ between potential project partners and the communities themselves.

Just living in Alice Springs for six weeks has also been a highlight for me. Even just in this short time, I have experienced so much. The lifestyle here of camping, attending local events and swimming in water holes and at the town pool is a welcome change to the busier lifestyle in Canberra. The entire experience at the Central Land Council has reaffirmed my passion for applied anthropology and community development, and taught me incredibly important information about the Aboriginal people of the Central Desert. I highly recommend undertaking this experience if you have the opportunity.

Applications for the winter 2020 round will be open from 2 through 27 March 2020 (http://auroraproject.com.au/about-internship-program).