Kate Butler

Winter 2018

Over four weeks in June and July 2018, I was fortunate enough to intern at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) at the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra, through the Aurora Internship program. As a Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics student at the ANU, CAEPR provided a fantastic combination of economic, legal and social policy research that was extremely complementary to my studies.

At CAEPR, my role was to create an annotated bibliography of (mainly academic) sources relating to treaties between government and Indigenous peoples and nations in other states. Each source was categorised according to the topic; for example, the treaty negotiation process, and the effect on education. This document was to provide a resource for my supervisor, Janet Hunt, the Acting Director of the Centre, for her work consulting the NSW government on the proposal to implement a treaty with Aboriginal nations. My research focussed predominantly on Canada, where there are countless treaties between both the federal government and provincial governments, and their First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. For each source, I first ensured it was relevant to my supervisor’s interests, and then read and summarised the key points relating to those interests.

All of the staff at CAEPR were extremely kind to me during my time there. Many researchers, including PhD students, took time to discuss with me their research, through which I learnt a great deal. Whilst I met many people due to sharing an office or bumping into each other in the hallway, or the tea room, a highlight of each week was the Friday morning teas, when the staff take a break together over home-made, delicious food. During NAIDOC week, we had a NAIDOC-themed morning tea, and many staff discussed the inspirational Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who had personally touched their lives, in honour of the 2018 NAIDOC theme, Because of Her, We Can!

I was lucky to undertake my internship at the same time as the ANU First Nation’s Forum was being held. I was able to watch the forum, which was live-streamed at the ANU. This was a great way for me to learn not only more about the issues facing Indigenous peoples today in Australia, but importantly what is being done to address the issues. It was also fascinating to hear about the experiences of Indigenous peoples in other states, including Canada and its treaty process and outcomes. It was interesting (if not disheartening!) to hear Canadians question Australia’s interest in a treaty process with Australian First Nations; however, reading the sources for my bibliography with this context in mind made it easier to keep in mind that there are no simple solutions to Australia’s myriad of issues in this realm.

It was very personally gratifying to be able to produce a document that will assist Ms Hunt in the important process of consulting the NSW government to hopefully produce a treaty that will create very real improvements in the lives of Aboriginal people in NSW. I greatly enjoyed my time at CAEPR and recommend it to any students who wish to discover more about the important research that is being undertaken in this area and to work in a fantastic office, full of interesting people willing to take time to share their experience and expertise with you.