Leah Lillingston

Native Title
Summer 2017

Prior to my time at GLSC I was unaware of how native title operates once a determination has been made by the court.  I was surprised to discover that native title does not operate in its own bubble as one area of law.  During my two weeks at GLSC I was also exposed to corporate law and contract law, which comprised of negotiation and litigation.  I learnt that working for a land council would allow me to experience the excitement and thrill of litigation without the tiresome long hours associated with normal private practice.  But even more enticing is the invaluable feeling of making a difference by assisting Aboriginal Australians in obtaining land rights to their country.

At GLSC I was given an overview of how the PBC’s (Prescribed Bodies Corporate) are established and operate after a native title determination.  I was also taught about the role of experts such as anthropologists in a native title claim who investigate and report on the ways in which Aboriginal people protect the country and their culture.  My respect for Aboriginal people was taken to new heights as I learnt more about their history and culture than I had ever learned at school or university.

In the two weeks (Aurora internships are usually a minimum of 4 weeks) that I spent at GLSC I took minutes for a PBC directors meeting, attended a meeting between a native title PBC and a mining company, assisted with contract negotiations between a pastoral lease owner and a native title group and went to court twice.  The first time I went to court I met with native title Barrister Tina Jowett during a case where she was acting for the Yinjibarndi people, and it was the first time I had seen a witness take the oath and give evidence at a trial.  Tina gave me previous judgements and submissions to read and explained the background to the current proceedings.  The second visit to court was to hear a judgement given by Justice Mortimer, and the room lit up with relief and joy when her Honour gave judgement to the native title group.