Janelle Chaptini

Summer 2020

I undertook an Aurora internship at ATNS, the Australian Treaties and Negotiation Settlement (ATNS). I was thrilled to have been provided with this wonderful opportunity to learn about Indigenous rights, land agreements and native title. I had to move to Melbourne so that I could undertake this internship. At first this was very overwhelming. It turned out to be one of the most exciting experiences of not only my law degree, but my life.


Before arriving at ATNS up I was not really sure what to expect, however I made a commitment to myself from the beginning to be appreciative of the wonderful opportunity. The internship exceeded my expectations. The mixture of the travelling to a new state, being around academics, and learning about native title allowed me to grow as a legal professional, and also to grow in self confidence, independence and knowledge. 


ATNS is located is in the heart of the city, across from the main campus of  beautiful Melbourne University, which I thought resembled Hogwarts. I enjoyed the 9-5pm work life. At the office of ATNS, I was surrounded by academics, and supervisors that were wonderful to work with. They provided the perfect balance of a relaxed supportive, yet extremely motivating and inspiring environment. In only a short four weeks I felt as though they went from my supervisors, to mentors, and to friends.

I predominately worked on updating the ATNS database with the most recent Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs). ATNS examines treaty and agreement-making with Indigenous Australians and, agreements made under native title and land rights laws in specific areas in Australia.  I had three main tasks while at ATNS. First, updating the database about ILUAs. This involved entering the details of the ILUAs into the database using plain English. I was able to develop my ability to translate complex legal language into plain English. Second, I contributed to a research project on treaties between the Indigenous people and native Americans in the US. This research has been such a valuable skill to learn. I also helped to develop a social media strategy, which was great as I was able to touch into my creative side.


Not only did I learn a lot about native title, I was able to learn about the culture of the Indigenous people and develop an awareness of the difficulties, hardships and needs of the community. I was able to learn about, how agreements are made, and how important they are to Indigenous people. The agreements lie at the heart of reconciliation and are of vital importance to Indigenous people culturally, legally, and spiritually. I found how little I knew about this. I now feel the importance of this kind of work to the native title sector and treaty project.  While we always have acknowledged the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the ‘Traditional Owners of this land’, but there is so little that we actually know and are taught through school and university.  I now have immense awareness into this and a passion within me to want to share this with other students. I have a drive to help close the gap, and I am grateful that I was able to contribute to this wider cause.


No matter how small the task was, it all was contributing to a wider cause. It was this motivation and passion for this project that made it so worthwhile. My work was important, and I am grateful that I have been able to contribute to the relaunch of this database. My gratitude extends to the people I was working for and to ATNS. The mission to spread awareness of native title, and make ILUAS more assessable is so important. Even though I was sad to leave, I was beyond grateful to have had the privilege to have partaken in this unique experience. I now have memories that will last me forever.


For more information about the Aurora Internship Program, visit https://auroraproject.com.au/about-internship-program Applications for the winter 2021 round will be open in March.