Madeleine Rudge

Summer 2013

Internship at the National Native Title Council

Last summer break, I had one of my most engaging and rewarding experiences since starting university. In 2012 I finished my third year of a law-arts degree, then spent 8 weeks of my summer holidays doing a voluntary internship at the National Native Title Council (NNTC), in Melbourne, as part of the Aurora Native Title Internship Program.

The NNTC is the peak representative body for Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) and Native Title Service Providers (NTSPs). These government-funded organisations assist Indigenous people with their native title claims and other matters including negotiating Indigenous Land Use Agreements. The NNTC represents the views of NTRBs through submissions to government, engagement in consultation processes and speaking out on significant native title matters. The NNTC also promotes the interests of Traditional Owners and their communities in relation to land and native title issues. The tasks I carried out were an interesting mix of law and policy work.

My supervisors gave me substantial tasks that were at the heart of the NNTC’s work. Most of my work involved drafting submissions or writing advice for the NNTC’s submission in response to government consultation papers or bills before parliament. These tasks required me to apply my knowledge of native title law and understanding of Indigenous social policy to consider implications of proposed legislative changes on NTRBs, Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities – I learnt a lot in the process. I quickly learnt about unfamiliar laws. I learnt a lot about current policies underpinning native title law and issues relating to NTRBs and Traditional Owner Groups. Also, I got to venture out of the office for a number of events.

Although my internship was with the NNTC, I consider myself lucky to have got two internships in one. The NNTC is housed in Native Title Services Victoria (NTSV). The NTSV staff welcomed me and invited me along to a number of events, including two native title workshops held at the Melbourne University’s law school. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to native title lawyers and the policy advisors to Traditional Owner Corporations who work at NTSV.

Through the tasks I completed, people I met, and workshops I attended, I engaged in current native title issues:

The tax treatment of native title benefits;
The introduction of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission;
The changing functions of Native Title Representative Bodies;
Objectives for Traditional Owner Corporations;
The governance standards of charitable trusts that deal with native title benefits; and
The National Cultural Flows Research Project, which is working towards securing Indigenous cultural flow rights and interests through Indigenous water allocations within Australia’s water planning and management frameworks.

Before I went to the NNTC, my goal was to work in the area of native title and/or Indigenous social policy. My internship further encouraged this and gave me a great insight into where I will head after graduation.

Applications for mid-year winter Aurora internships round close on March 28. Applications are open to law, anthropology and some social science students and graduates. Possible placements are NTRBs or an Indigenous organisation working in land rights, policy development, social justice or human rights. Students who are interested can apply online at