I have always been interested in the rights and affairs of marginalised groups in developing and developed countries and through my course in Development Studies I took an interest in the complex field of native title within the country. This then led me to apply for an internship through the Aurora Project. The Aurora Native Title Internship Program was initiated in 2006 to provide assistance to native title lawyers working at Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs); however it soon expanded by attracting some social science students and graduates with an interest in social justice, land rights, human rights and the broader areas of Indigenous affairs. On being successful with my application for a social science placement, I was placed at the National Native Title Council (NNTC) in North Melbourne during November/December 2012 along with another intern from a law background. NNTC is a coalition of NTRBs and Native Title Service Providers (NTSPs) from around Australia, and it acts as a peak body that is involved in information sharing, building and maintaining relationships and partnerships with key stakeholders and promoting the interests of Traditional Owners around Australia.
Needless to say, I was nervous and apprehensive about my placement as I had limited knowledge about native title, but I needn’t have worried as I was readily welcomed into the organisation and was able to soon grasp the multidimensional nature NNTCs work, and I continued to increase my knowledge on the topic every day. My three supervisors including the CEO and an Aurora internship alum, were all valuable sources of information and support throughout my internship.
My work at NNTC was a mixed bag of tasks, ranging from general administrative duties to more complex report and submission writing. The following are the main tasks I engaged in during my placement:
Writing of a submission to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) with regards to a questionnaire that highlights the use of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples within NNTC/NTRB work
Undertaking research into the issues faced by NTRBs in carrying out their work as part of a broader review on their work that is to be undertaken by FAHCSIA
Review and analysis of current legislation and acts relating to water resource management for the National Cultural Flows Research Project- an exciting and innovative initiative currently being undertaken by NNTC to consolidate the current and future research on cultural flows with the aim to influence the management of future resource management projects to include Indigenous needs and requirements
Assisting with research, data entry
Compilation of a database of funding options that can be used by NNTC projects
General administrative tasks such as compiling information packs and photocopying.
NNTC is housed in the same building as the Native Title Services Victoria (NTSV) and I was lucky enough to meet and work alongside some of the NTSV policy team members as well as Aurora interns placed there. The entire NTSV team were extremely welcoming and accommodating of NNTC interns and I am truly appreciative of the opportunity to work with dedicated and experienced staff from two inspiring organisations in the area of Indigenous affairs.
The six week experience at NNTC was truly inspiring and enjoyable. Not only did I gain experience writing reports and submissions, but as an administrative novice, I also learnt the equally important task of printing out address labels- although after a few hilarious failed attempts! NNTC is located in the prime location of North Melbourne and there are plenty of cafes, patisseries and antique shops nearby if you’re as interested in experiencing new places and restaurants as I am! I strongly recommend the Aurora Internship Program and NNTC to anyone looking to work in or learn more about native title, especially as it’s a crucial area of Indigenous affairs that is faced with a massive work- load yet under- resourced.
Applications for the upcoming winter 2013 round of internships will be open on-line via the Aurora website from 4th through 28th March 2013 at http://www.auroraproject.com.au/nativetitleinternshipprogram.