Nadisha Senasinghe

Native Title
Summer 2019


For 6 weeks I was at the Yamatji Marlpa Aborignal Corporation (YMAC) at the Perth office undertaking an Aurora internship. For three days a week I was a commuter among the working class of Perth City, the other four I was back to being a student of Anthropology and Sociology doing my Honours research.
YMAC was an awesome experience, so many different disciplines and areas of expertise come together to represent Aboriginal groups of the Murchison – Gascoyne and Pilbarra areas of WA. The diversity in the office relayed in the diversity of my day to day tasks but mostly I worked on the organisation of digital databases and transcribing field notes. On the quiet days I was able to work on my own research which was a welcome change and I truly appreciated being given that time to study.
I was extremely fortunate in the timing of this internship as in the final week, YMAC had collaborated with the Centre of Native title Anthropology and Australia National University to deliver a week-long conference: Native title in a Time of Change.

The best way I can describe the weeks leading up to the conference is that it felt something like YMAC was Mr Miagi and I was the karate kid.
During my time in the office I was assigned these tasks of data base organisation and transcription, which made me familiar with the work of important figures in Native Title Anthropology like Bates and Tindale who I was only vaguely familiar with before this internship.
As an intern I was given the opportunity to explore these resources with my own interests in mind which gave me a great overview and some days I would simply watch videos or look at pictures!
The conference I attended was in my last week as an intern and it was a unique opportunity to centre myself within the field of Native Title anthropology by being surrounded by a variety of high skilled and experienced native title anthropologists.
Initially and during my time at the conference I was overwhelmied and intimidating, but it was also inspiring and challenging and intellectually stimulating.
It was an amazing opportunity hearing from a lot of different voices on the various sectors of Native Title Anthropology and some of the issues that come along with.
I got to assist in constructing an ‘expert report’ to practise writing for the court (I was a scribe) and it was amazing to be able to observe the language use and to learn about some of the legal contexts which native title anthropologists work within.
My Karate Kid moment came during the third day of the conference where the focus of the day was genealogies. In Native Title and Land claims, there is an emphasis on continuity of connection and on defining group membership. The discussions were around the collection, storage and management of genealogies including the issue of the post-claim return of genealogies which is a complex matter. One of the anthropologists at YMAC had sat down with me and shown me the process of  entering information into these databases from fieldnotes to create genealogies so I was vaguely familiar aware of the conversations that were happening that day.
It was really interesting to hear how people who work in the field are conceptualising and anticipating the changes that are happening to the native title landscape with social media and the ways that people are engaging with their own genealogies on Facebook groups.
Having completed this internship, I’m much more confident and aware of native title anthropology and my future prospects. Throughout my undergraduate degree I developed a set of skills that I hope to use in the scope of social justice and human rights but specifically as a non-indigenous person, this internship showed me what that may look like practically.
I recommend these internships as a way to gain experience not only in the field of native title but also to get to know Aboriginal communities, the names the of groups and country and the passionate and bright people who work in the field.