Ingrid Bennett

Summer 2020

The Aurora Project was created to strengthen Indigenous organisations by supporting staff and facilitating employment opportunities within these organisations. The Aurora Internship Program is part of this endeavor. By assisting with the selection and placement of interns, the Aurora Internship Program places university students and graduates within a variety of Indigenous organisations. This is an important service, as most Indigenous organisations are underfunded and over worked. Aurora provides passionate and qualified interns whilst allowing organisations to avoid the extra workload of advertising positions and assessing applications. My Aurora Internship was through the legal stream and I was placed with the Agreements Treaties and Negotiated Settlements Project (ATNS).


ATNS is part of the Indigenous Studies Unit at the University of Melbourne, headed by Professor Marcia Langton. The ATNS aims to promote transparency and understanding about Indigenous agreement-making in Australia and overseas. The ATNS’ work is ongoing as they critically examine treaty and agreement making between Indigenous Australians and others, and the nature of the cultural, social and legal rights encompassed by those agreements. A fundamental part of ATNS’ work is the creation and maintenance of the ATNS Database. The database is the first of its kind and records the details of various agreements for academics, policy makers and community members to access.


I was one of two Aurora interns placed with ATNS during the Summer 2019/2020 round, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that three of the staff I worked with at ATNS had also started out as Aurora interns. My internship coincided with the preparations for the relaunch of ATNS’ website with a renewed focus on nation-building. I had expected to work primarily on updating and maintaining the database and whilst this did form the majority of my work, my internship also provided opportunities for me to work independently on creative research projects and to pitch and create content for the new website. My work was largely independent and the trust of my supervisors made me feel like a true member of the team. An internship with ATNS provides an opportunity for independent workers to take initiative to expand their responsibilities and maximize their contribution to ATNS’ work. 


As a law student, my internship with ATNS gave me new insight into careers in law outside of practicing law. My internship was an immersive way to learn about Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) and Native Title law as I read and summarized ILUAs and Consent Determinations for the database. Learning about Indigenous agreement making broadened my understanding on a number of social justice and human rights issues. My internship caused me to look at native title law from a different perspective and consider the balance between the practical benefits of the native title system and its weaknesses in providing substantive justice. I believe that I have finished my internship better informed and better placed to advocate for social justice and human rights issues. I will take the insights I gained at ATNS with me into legal practice. 


I would encourage all law, anthropology and social science students to consider applying for an internship through the Aurora Project. There are both summer and winter internship rounds, visit their website for more details.