Oliver Greeves

Native Title
Winter 2013

For four weeks during the winter break, I undertook an Aurora internship via the Aurora Native Title Internship Program at South Australian Native Title Services Ltd (SANTS). My experience was full of enriching tasks and activities, most of which considerably developed my legal research skills and my knowledge of the steps towards recognising native title rights and interests. It was a valuable addition to my studies, and further cemented my determination to pursue social justice in my legal career. Native title law is quite particular, and like many areas of law, the more I understand it, the more I realise how much of it I have yet to understand. I found out that this was the case even for the experienced native title lawyers. Despite being very specific, the law is immensely broad, and I found that the people engaged in this field encouraged creative discussion and theorisation. The work never became mechanical, which was one of the reasons why I found my internship to be endlessly interesting. I was given multiple tasks to complete, which kept me very busy — this included analysing the way certain provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) operate, writing legal argument on tenure, previous exclusive possession acts and negotiation privilege, among other topics, drafting an affidavit and several letters pursuant to Indigenous Land Use Agreements. I also used geospatial software to determine the underlying land interests of the parcels in a claim area and then examined whether the grant of a certain interest was a previous exclusive possession act for the purposes of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). Sitting in at many Federal Court hearings allowed me to gain familiarity with the court’s procedure, and I even attended hearings for preservation of evidence, which took place ‘on country’ and therefore did not involve the same formality of the courtroom.

I attended a claim group authorisation meeting in Broken Hill over the first weekend, which was the highlight of my internship. My role during the meeting was to edit the resolutions to be passed, upon instruction from the group, and to record the voting results. The experience in Broken Hill enabled me to meet native title claimants personally and hear their stories. It also allowed me to bond with the SANTS staff and talk about our shared motivations and passions. My experience learning from the practitioners and other staff members about native title related matters has made me seriously consider a career in native title. The workplace culture was the most enjoyable I have ever experienced, and everyone was more than enthusiastic to engage with me and get to know me properly. One lawyer actively encouraged me to complete tasks for the Practical Legal Training component of my Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice even though I had not originally planned to do this with SANTS. He also introduced me to an external lawyer with whom I have now organised work experience. Another SANTS lawyer wrote a commending reference at the end of my placement, and we have kept in touch. I felt welcome, appreciated and respected during my time there. Reflecting upon my internship, I consider the people, their personalities, their passions and the workplace culture have been as much of an incentive for me to work in native title in the future as the pursuit for Aboriginal justice has