Jessica Roberts

Native Title
Summer 2013

The Aurora Native Title Internship is definitely something to consider doing whilst undertaking your studies. An Aurora Internship offers either a winter or summer based internship for five to six weeks, which is a full time unpaid commitment. The internship allows individuals to be placed within the field of anthropology, social science or law at either one of the 15 Native Title Representative Bodies, or at one of over 65 other Indigenous corporations, government bodies, community groups and other policy organisations Australia-wide.

I recently undertook an Aurora Internship over the summer within the legal field and I was placed at Native Title Services Victoria Ltd (NTSV). NTSV assists many native title groups within Victoria in matters arising from their native title. NTSV provides a professional service centre for traditional owner groups of Victoria. They support and respect the autonomy of native title claim groups and use negotiation and mediation as key dispute resolution tools. NTSV also help Indigenous Victorians exercise their cultural responsibilities to care for land and help native title claim groups identify and achieve their own distinct aspirations under the Native Title Act.

During my internship at NTSV, I have been given a wide range of interesting tasks. I had undertaken legal research for lawyers in relation to native title and cultural heritage matters, which was extremely interesting. It was great to be able to help contribute in the process of researching as the law needs to be clarified as the status quo is that there are more questions asked then questions answered. I had also drafted and edited many different legal documents, such as consent deeds, occupancy agreements, section 31 deeds, project consent deeds, body corporate agreements, threshold statements, form 1’s, documentation for the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations and advice for a land council. Preparing, drafting and editing legal documents during my time at NTSV had been extremely interesting and rewarding. Further, I had also attended quite a few on country meetings, such as a negotiation meeting, full group meetings and annual general meetings across Victoria, where my role was to provide assistance where needed and also to take notes and minutes during the meetings. Many people generally do not get to hear the stories I have heard and consequently do not understand just how significant and important the land is to Indigenous Australians. I am extremely glad I had the opportunity to attend such meetings.

Every day I spent at NTSV has been extremely interesting and I have learnt additional knowledge that I do not think I have could ever have learnt from the books. The internship was an opportunity for me to develop my legal skills whilst learning and gaining practical legal knowledge in the field I am interested in. This internship allowed me the opportunity to gain additional knowledge on Indigenous culture, traditions and customs and helped me clearly understand Indigenous Australian’s connection to the land whilst assisting Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs).
I could not have asked for a better internship, especially as I had the opportunity to not only work on things within the office, but by working on legal documents and undertaking legal research and then to attending on country meetings to present the work I have been undertaking to these claimant groups, has been extremely rewarding. Native title is definitely an area that I have highly considered working in upon completing my university degree.

I would highly recommend the Aurora Internship Program to everyone, especially law students. Not only are you working on native title matters, you are constantly dealing with many different areas of the law such as, property law, contract law, commercial law and taxation law. Further, you get to develop an understanding of how the law impacts community groups, advocating for change and assisting people to see how the complexities of Australia’s legal system are slowly being changed.