Elsie Francis

Native Title
Winter 2017

During the 2017 mid-year break, I was fortunate enough to have been selected to undertake a legal internship at Native Title Services Victoria (NTSV) for five weeks as part of my involvement in the Aurora Internship Program. NTSV is a Native Title Representative Body located in Melbourne that provides research and legal services to Indigenous groups throughout Victoria so as to ensure that native title rights and interests are recognised and protected. NTSV does this by developing land claims that authentically reflect Traditional Owner’s connections to ancestral land, with the claims being established through processes of community consultation, heritage-based research and understandings of the complex policy that governs the native title sphere.

As a third year Arts/Law student double majoring in Anthropology and Ancient Cultures at Monash University, I thought the completion of this insightful, challenging and rewarding internship was the perfect opportunity to gain a spectrum of knowledge regarding the Indigenous sector, expand my practical legal skills and form an abundance of professional relationships with individuals who hold the same passion for native title and land rights as myself. Working at NTSV provided me with a plethora of valuable experiences, including the opportunity’s to immerse myself in a dynamically diverse workplace and learn from anthropological and legal perceptions of native title in terms of its application and ensuing results.

The time I spent at NTSV was profoundly thought-provoking, enriching and interesting, with the work I engaged in requiring deep understandings of Indigenous culture and history, as well as the complex law that administers the field. I undertook a variety of enjoyable and compelling tasks, such as completing a research project which involved substantiating an individual’s claim to traditional land through the analysis of an array of birth, death and marriage certificates and pieces of correspondence before subsequently compiling numerous genealogies. Ultimately, I was able to infer that the individuals claim to traditional country was illegitimate, inauthentic and unfounded. Throughout the course of my internship I also prepared court folders, conducted research to identify cases of native title extinguishment, attended and drafted minutes for negotiating team meetings and examined land deeds in relation to deceased members to agreements. I was also given with the opportunity to attend a hearing in the Federal Court, an opportunity which provided me with a first-hand experience of native title legal proceedings during such a captivating and intricate issue.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at NTSV and the way in which it allowed me to expand my legal and anthropological expertise and knowledge of the broader Indigenous sector, whilst enhancing skills of individual and collaborative leadership, problem-solving, communication and organisation. It was an amazing experience to be directly involved in a professional and friendly atmosphere in such a way that profoundly strengthened my goal of becoming a native title lawyer.

I strongly encourage current university students and recent graduates with an interest in native title or the broader Indigenous sector to consider completing an internship through the Aurora Program. The program offers the opportunity to take part in a transformative experience that enhances your knowledge regarding issues faced by Indigenous communities and inspires your future study and work life.