Monica Thompson

Native Title
Winter 2018

The Aurora Internship Program places students and graduates in law, anthropology, and social sciences in internships with organisations that have a focus on the Indigenous sector and native title. I was lucky enough to be placed with the Northern Land Council (NLC) in Darwin. For five weeks I was exposed to a fast-paced, exciting, and interesting workplace whilst learning some invaluable skills.

The NLC is an independent statutory authority which was established to help Aboriginal Australians located in the Top End of the Northern Territory acquire and manage traditional land and seas. The legal branch, where I was placed as a law student, is unlike a regular law firm, and I was challenged from the first day. My tasks varied from standard filing and paperwork to writing interesting advices on relevant issues, such as permits to enter Aboriginal land and the disposal of abandoned materials left on Aboriginal land. I also reviewed draft leases and licences, giving me the opportunity to put what I had learnt so far in my degree into practice.    

One of the most memorable tasks was to work with an Aboriginal translator. We worked together to translate a recording of a recent consultation with a group of Traditional Owners, many of whom spoke solely in language. This was a unique experience which gave me an appreciation for the struggles faced by those without an English speaking background. I was also amazed to learn from the translator about the history and culture that was reflected through the language, and how its use in different regions was being threatened. It was great to see the NLC encourage Traditional Owners to speak in language during consultations, in an effort to keep it alive within communities, and ensure a thorough understanding of concepts presented.   

I also had the chance to travel to a remote community and assist with a consultation involving different initiatives put forward by other Traditional Owners to utilise the land. I learnt how to communicate complex legal terms to different groups, for many of whom English was a second language, and ensure the group had a complete understanding. This involved using prompts, maps and simplified key terms, as well as turning legal terms into stories that were more relatable. I also had the opportunity to meet with some really interesting people and see an incredible part of Australia, both experiences I would not have otherwise had. 

The internship experience taught me a lot of real life skills that cannot be learnt solely through a university degree. I was able to put what I had learnt into practice at a critical point in my studies, which gave me a greater overall understanding of the content I had been learning. I have also been given the opportunity to continue working with the NLC as a paralegal.  

Through this experience I was given an appreciation for the legal, cultural and historical issues surrounding land in the Northern Territory. I have been exposed to many different legal issues and I now feel that I have greater clarity about my career after graduation. I am extremely grateful for the experience that I had and could not recommend completing an internship through Aurora highly enough.   

Applications for the winter 2019 round of Aurora internships open in March 2019 at