After completing an undergraduate Arts degree in 2011, the Aurora Native Title Internship Program provided a gateway to live and work in the remote NT community of Wadeye for 6 months. There I worked in the Safe House and lived with the crèche manager who was employed by the same service (CSSU). I developed an understanding of the critical importance of early years experiences for children, and the value of positive engagements with families in order for holistic benefits for children, families and communities. I also witnessed the importance of cultural safety when working in this environment and the issues some families face in engaging with ‘mainstream’ services.
Though this experience, I re-evaluated my former plan to study social work and decided to pursue early childhood teaching instead. Whilst finding it fascinating and with a lot of potential for positive change, moving to Melbourne for the course led me to feel like my interests were not compatible. On paper they seem to be related (especially due to the current emphasis on early years services to ‘close the gap’ and awareness of the importance of formative experiences in early childhood), but my experiences between Wadeye and inner city Melbourne child care centres seemed somewhat incongruent. I felt impatient to leave and bored with being in the city, and that in order to find interesting and worthwhile work I would need to go somewhere else. It’s not that I thought such jobs and opportunities didn’t exist in the city, but that I had no way of accessing them.
Then I was placed in a second internship through the Aurora Internship Program at an organisation I’d been admiring for some years; the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) – Australia’s National peak advocacy body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family welfare.
The work that I was involved with at SNAICC was varied and diverse. I looked at databases and was given (extremely interesting and relevant) reports to read and summarise. Working on the sustainable funding project, I contacted services across Australia, made appointments with Members of Parliament, and as an unforseen bonus was able to attend meetings and a Parliamentary event in Canberra hosted by SNAICC and opened by Mick Gooda. I was able to meet services providers from across Australia and hear first-hand their experiences, gaining insight into the value of the work that SNAICC does in advocating for and enabling their ongoing delivery of services.
At the North Fitzroy office I was welcomed with a heart-warming generosity and openness, and immediately liked every single person I met. I was invited to staff meetings, included in professional development and training, and included in the seemingly endless morning and afternoon teas, celebrating everything from weddings to birthdays to welcoming and farewelling new staff and interns (such as myself).
My supervisors were generous with their time and knowledge, and I found everyone in the office to be supportive and welcoming. I was able to learn about the varied and diverse work and roles that others were engaged in and was provided with background information and materials to contextualise what I was learning (for instance SNAICC has created resources on parenting practices and child protection, and ongoing projects such as family matter and cultural awareness and training). I was given training on how to use twitter and other social media to promote the organisation and insight into the roles of the media officer and events manager.
Although there were many positive aspects of the internship and my expectations were exceeded in just about every way, the overarching highlight of the experience has been seeing the tireless efforts and pragmatic optimism of the people who work for the organisation. Witnessing first-hand the superhuman efforts people were willing to make in order to advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families in a respectful and culturally safe manner has greatly inspired me and I am facing my last year of uni with a renewed passion and understanding of how my interests and values are aligned and can be applied in diverse contexts.
I would highly recommend an internship with the Aurora Project. I have been lucky enough to do two and have learnt a lot through both. For more information on the Internship Program and partner organisations please refer to the website: http://www.auroraproject.com.au/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org. My experiences with the Placements team have also been extremely positive as they are supportive and professional, and in my case were particularly hardworking to secure the placement, for which I am very grateful.
For more information, visit the Aurora Project website: Applications for the summer round are open on-line from 4th through 29th August.