Isabella Maxwell-Williams

Winter 2010

The Aurora Project Internship Experience: Article for Vertigo

The phrase ‘closing the gap’ seems to be at the fore of most political and social commentary relating to current Indigenous affairs, and holds particular significance in such a heated political climate. The phrase makes reference to the educational, economic and social inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and the importance of implementing and sustaining governmental and non-governmental projects, which will ensure that the discrepancies which constitute this gap are addressed and improved. This phrase became particularly important to me during my experience as an Aurora intern with the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) in Redfern, Sydney.

In March of this year, I applied for the winter 2010 round of Aurora Native Title Internships on the Social Science stream. The Aurora Project is a non-government organization, which places legal, anthropology and some social science students and graduates as interns with native title representative bodies (NTRBs) and other organizations working in policy, human rights and Indigenous affairs. . My successful application facilitated my placement with the NCIE where I worked for 5 weeks, and was given the amazing opportunity to engage with local and national Indigenous Affairs in a practical, educational and stimulating way.

My time at the NCIE over the 2010 mid-year break, exposed me to the dedication, inspiration and passion with which organizations are working to institute tangible and practical change for Indigenous Australians, and truly make moves to close this proverbial gap. The NCIE is a not for profit organization, which has a state of the art educational, health and recreation centre located on the site of the old Redfern Primary School and has the sole purpose of encouraging and supporting a culture of excellence within the local and national Indigenous community. During my placement I was required to evaluate and comment on the current educational and economic policy directly affecting Indigenous Australians, attend meetings with various high-profile political and religious figures and work on and develop Indigenous youth related strategy for the Centre. I was also involved with the organization and celebration of NAIDOC Week 2010.
The NCIE was officially opened by Kevin Rudd at the beginning of this year and has attracted a great deal of political interest because of the inspired, renewed and enthusiastic energy which so characterizes the projects and initiatives coming out of this centre. The NCIE aims to have 5000 Indigenous students attend and be involved with its educational programmes each year. In working alongside both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people within this space, I witnessed first-hand the local manifestation of a reconciled Australia.

As an Aurora intern my exposure to this new forceful energy, which is now fuelling discussion around reconciliation and improvement of Indigenous affairs was profoundly inspiring. I felt as though I was part of a catalyst for social change, which will define the direction of Indigenous affairs in the coming years. This would not have been possible without the work of the Aurora Project. The Aurora crew worked tirelessly to place me with a host organization, which would match my academic interests and thus ensure a truly invaluable, enlightening and inspiring experience. The Aurora Project offers 5 – 6 week social science, legal and anthropology internships over the summer and winter uni breaks and if Indigenous affairs and social change are ideas which appeal to you, I would highly recommend applying.

I cannot emphasize enough how much I learnt from my time as an Aurora intern with the NCIE; not only in terms of the expansion of my understanding of Indigenous affairs, but also a deeper awareness of the importance of non-government organizations in bringing the political rhetoric into fruition through creating an informed dialogue between Indigenous Australians and mainstream institutional bodies. I now have a renewed and strong faith in the move to ‘close the gap’ and the growing empowerment of the Indigenous voice.

Applications for the summer 2010/11 round of internship are open through 3 September via the Aurora website at