Marina Kolb

Social Science
Native Title
Summer 2014

As a political scientist working on human rights in Europe, I am naturally interested in the area of Indigenous affairs and native title in Australia. For me, the question of how to deal with its Indigenous population is Australia’s most nagging social problem. Doing some research, I found it majorly unsettling how Australia’s governments treated Indigenous people in the past, and yet recent policy acts - e.g. when looking at the Northern Territory Intervention - show that practices like this still are in place and even continue well into to the future; a proof that Australia still is far from coming to terms with its Indigenous heart.

In this context, the work of NTRBs and other organisations dealing with policy development, social justice and Indigenous affairs more generally is highly important and ever so needed. As my PhD thesis deals with human rights, I am passionate about social justice and thus as I discovered the Aurora Project, and I knew that I would feel at home in native title and Indigenous affairs. I applied right away and was very pleased to be granted a 3-week placement with Central Desert in Perth.

My supervisors, Heather Lynes and Claire Greer, were both very kind and eager to provide me with ‘interesting’ research tasks and I was not disappointed! The desktop research included going through the CDNTS documents with the aim of collecting information containing the indigenous perspective on one portion of the Canning Stock Route or associating a 300-item (sites, places) list with a particular determination/ application: e.g. Wiluna, Birriliburu, Martu, Ngurrara and Tjurabalan (a task, which improved quite a lot my geographical understanding of the central desert region of WA and the claim areas;-)).  I also helped to gather information for one claim (Kulyakartu) by visiting DAA and the States Record Office (WA) and accessing documents (list of employees etc.) on the Stations Mandorah, Anna Plains and Wallal Downs. Finally, I worked on the compensation application lodged by CDNTS, the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve, by adding dates of birth to the claimants’ genealogies and preparing information for the interviews of Gibson Desert Nature Reserve witnesses, which the CDNTS staff will undertake from January on.

The internship allowed me to really immerse myself into a completely new topic; the information I came across was all new to me and thus very interesting and instructive. The tasks I’ve been given illustrate some of the in-house research the anthropology staff is doing and helped me to get a good feel for what anthropological work in native title can look like. Last but not least, I enjoyed the friendly staff, the pleasant atmosphere and all the social activities going on in the office. Overall, I had a very good experience.