In July 2015, I completed my second anthropology internship through the Aurora Internship Program. As an Aurora almuna (winter 2011), who has been working in Aboriginal health and community development for the past few years, I requested that I be placed with an NTRB in order to learn more about native title and was offered a placement with Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) at their head office in Perth.
YMAC was an excellent organisation to be placed with, being one of the larger NTRBs and whose work covers a significant area of Western Australia. I was placed at the same time as a number of legal interns and YMAC was well set-up to provide comprehensive inductions to the different departments. Whilst at some level it seemed confusing that the claimants’ legal representatives work for the same organisation as the research team tasked with producing the Connection Report, the mix of disciplines made the office a dynamic and stimulating place to work.
It was also interesting to learn about YMAC’s plans for Knowledge Partnerships as a way to capture the invaluable information they have gathered over the past two decades and use it to inform and aid community development. Although there are some claims that have been ongoing for nearly as long as the organisation has been around, there is currently a push by the Federal Court to process all outstanding claims, making this an interesting time to be involved in native title and also to consider the future role of NTRBs.
I was given varied and interesting tasks assisting the anthropologists working on the Gnulli and the Kuruma & Marthudunera claims, which meant working for both the Yamatji and the Marlpa regions. I was asked to type field notes and transcribe video and audio interviews that offered insight into the fieldwork process, but it is hard to imagine the leap from interning to conducting fieldwork without first-hand experience!
I particularly enjoyed going to the State Records Office in order to retrieve files, such as archived police reports and reports from the office of the Protector of Aborigines. These documents taught me a great deal about the history of Western Australia. The process of using microfilm and fiche, and making copies of files, revealed just how time-consuming the research process is, while the occasional missing file flagged how claims are so dependent on what was recorded, by whom, and how well those records have been preserved. I also had the opportunity to go to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to access restricted files.
I would recommend completing an Aurora internship to all anthropology students and graduates, though I would suggest that those who do not have ‘on country’ experience try to undertake a placement in one of the regional locations. For example, YMAC also take interns in their Geraldton and South Hedland offices. YMAC were an excellent organisation to work as an intern with due to the diversity of their work and the friendly and supportive office environment.
Thank you to everyone I worked with, and again, to the Placements team at Aurora, for your support throughout the placement.