Marianna Pedersen

Native Title
Summer 2015

After graduating my master’s degree in Anthropology and Ethnography I was excited to pursue a career within the Indigenous sector. Traditional landownership was one of my key interests during my studies so I was very excited to learn about the Aurora Project’s internship opportunities via the Aurora Internship Program. Not only would an Aurora internship encompass my interest in Indigenous people’s landownership and relation with land, but it would also provide me with hands-on experience working with native title and Indigenous communities.

I was fortunate to be offered a placement with the Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) in Perth. While being very privileged to be offered this placement, I was worried about my lack of knowledge of native title and the work involved. Little did I know that my upcoming 5 weeks at YMAC would be a wonderful and instructive intern experience and provide the best introduction to the world of native title!  

Before starting the internship I got in touch with my supervising anthropologist at YMAC, who I would be working with during my placement. She provided me with some pre-reading and that, as well as, the Aurora Handbook for Interns made me feel a little more prepared for my first day.

On my first day at the YMAC office, I was welcomed by my friendly supervisor, who showed me around the office, and introduced me to the staff.  Everyone was very nice and immediately made me feel welcome. My supervisor gave me some background information of the claim that I would be working on and gave me the opportunity to look through some genealogies and connection reports to get a better understanding of the native title process and the work involved. I was then given my first task, which involved going through a previous anthropologist’s field notes and entering information on claimants’ residence/work life on country into the Family Tree Maker genealogies.

The following days, the different departments within YMAC held inductions to provide interns with a broader understanding of the work involved. This was very useful and despite just being an intern I already felt like an integrated part of the team where my assistance was much appreciated. I also attended the three days “Introduction to Native Title Anthropology” workshop facilitated by Aurora, which I would highly recommend anyone interested in native title anthropology to attend. The workshop introduced me to all the corners of native title and provided a deep insight to the role of the anthropologist.

The next few weeks my tasks included re-referencing field notes, compiling a draft biography, reading a book from 1986 in order to find information on claimants’ work life and residence, re-referencing a text to a different volume, finding genealogical information in old field notes, transcribing field notes and going to the State Records Library to locate old letters and records, which could contain useful information about claimants’ ancestors.

I was really fortunate to be working on the same claim during my internship. This gave me a good insight into the history of the claim and the various genealogies. I was also invited to attend a claim team meeting with the Geraldton office (on webcam). It was interesting to follow a meeting where the working process was discussed, and it gave me another chance to experience the daily work affairs of the YMAC anthropologists.

Despite being a very busy office, the YMAC office had a relaxing atmosphere where everyone seemed to get along, was friendly and even as an intern you never felt like you were taken for granted – even on the touch rugby field! (a few staff members play touch rugby three times a week and the interns were invited to participate).

Being an intern at YMAC Perth has been such an insightful, fun, and rewarding experience. I have gained a lot of knowledge of the work involved in native title, the process and what it is like working in a busy multi-disciplinary native title representative office. Therefore, I would highly recommend anyone interested in native title or Indigenous affairs, to apply for an internship via the Aurora Project.