As a penultimate year Commerce student it is almost impossible to ignore the general hype around finding ‘vac work’. It’s a key step in your career progression and the competition is cutthroat. But what if the ‘Big Four’ and the other usual suspects don’t entice?
I was looking for an internship with a difference: a placement that would allow me to engage my social consciousness, whilst putting the skills and knowledge I’ve gained in my Economics and Commerce studies to use. I found the Aurora Project.
The Aurora Native Title Internship Program offers students and recent graduates with an interest in social justice and policy a chance to explore work opportunities in Native Title and Indigenous Affairs. It operates as an umbrella organisation, linking prospective interns with over-worked and under-resourced Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs), Native Title Service Providers (NTSPs), as well as Indigenous corporations, government bodies, community groups, not-for-profits and policy organisations.
Placements (unpaid) are offered all around Australia, from Melbourne to Cape York, Sydney to the Kimberley. The experience of every intern is different, but wherever you are placed, you will encounter complex and challenging issues, meet extraordinary people and make a real contribution to your host organisation.
For six weeks over the summer break, I was placed at the National Native Title Council (NNTC), based in Queensberry St, North Melbourne. The NNTC is an alliance of NTRBs and NTSPs from around Australia. Its mission is to maximise the contribution of native title to achieving and improving the economic, social and cultural participation of Indigenous peoples. It does this by building strong relationships with industry, Government and other key stakeholders to work towards tangible improvements in native title outcomes for traditional owners and their communities.
My first task at the NNTC was to draft articles for the organisation’s e-newsletter, to keep members and interest groups abreast of the NNTC’s current agenda. This was a deceptively simple task given the overwhelming scope of the organisation’s work. At the time I was working there, key items on the NNTC’s agenda included: consultation on the Government’s Draft Indigenous Economic Development Strategy, the development of the Australian pilot of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, consultation over the impact of the proposed Carbon Farming Initiative on native title holders (just to name a few).
I drew on a range of topics studied at uni to inform my analysis of these issues: from the role of micro-finance as a catalyst for economic development, to the mechanics of a carbon offset scheme, to the relative strengths of employment versus enterprise as paths to asset accumulation. Perhaps the greatest revelation was that apparently dry issues of financial literacy and tax incentives could in fact be vehicles for social change. It was exciting and challenging to have to think beyond the textbook solution and reconcile general principles I have learnt in the classroom with challenges posed by politics, prejudice and disadvantage that shape the reality of Indigenous policy. Moreover, as an organisation of only two permanent staff, my work as an intern was both needed and appreciated. I was given a degree of autonomy in carrying out my work that was at first disarming but ultimately very rewarding.
Above all, it was inspiring to work alongside individuals of extraordinary talent, vision and perseverance who are striving for genuine equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
I would encourage anyone looking for work experience with a difference to consider an internship with Aurora. It is an opportunity to contribute your knowledge, skills and energy in ways that are surprising, challenging and inspiring.
Applications for internships through the Aurora Internship Program are open in March and August of each year. For more details, visit http://www.auroraproject.com.au/Internships.htm.