Lena Mackey

Native Title
Winter 2015

I was fortunate enough to be placed at the Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) office in Geraldton, which is really a one-of-a-kind workplace. YMAC is a non-profit, Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) that employs Lawyers and Anthropologists to assist with native title claims, as well as Heritage Officers to provide heritage protection services for land use agreements. Having little knowledge and understanding of native title and what it involves, the internship provided an insight into the type of work involved in native title. ​

My main role was as a research assistant. In my first week I started off with doing some transcribing of field notes, as well as some ethno-historical research for a connection report. I was also asked to record place names on Daisy Bates’ hand drawn maps, and utilised the Aboriginal Heritage Information System to compile a list of registered sites within a claim. Being the only intern at the time, the legal team also asked me to prepare slides for a meeting, but I mostly carried out clerical tasks for the anthropologists.

While most of the time I would be working at my desk, during the second week I attended the Wadjari Working Group meetings that were held in town. Up until that point I didn’t have a lot to do with the lawyers in the office, and wasn’t really sure how they worked together with the anthropology department. If you get a chance to go to a meeting, it is definitely worthwhile. I probably learned more about native title in those two days than any other days at the office.

The highlight of my time at YMAC was helping out with the Malgana Working Group meeting in Shark Bay. Firstly, I got to travel to Shark Bay, which is beautiful. But I also developed an understanding of just how much organisation and teamwork is required to execute such an event. I helped out with anything from cleaning toilets to making cups of tea for old ladies, to registering people for the meeting and counting votes during elections. It was so great seeing everyone work together, and I got a feel for what exactly is involved in a working group meeting.

To say I enjoyed the internship would be an understatement. I absolutely loved it. My supervisors were all extremely patient, and carefully and comprehensively answered all my questions. They were very honest about the massive workload, but gave me an array of different tasks to ensure I enjoyed the experience, as well as exposing me to the different kinds of work involved. After the first week, I didn't even feel like an intern, just one of the team. The knowledge and experience I gained was invaluable to my future job prospects, and I encourage anyone interested in working in native title or Aboriginal affairs to apply. You won’t regret it.