Poorniima Shanmugam

Native Title
Winter 2019


I commenced my undergraduate degree in Anthropology and International Relations at the University of Melbourne in 2017. For me understanding cultures was an important aspect of developing a complete outlook on how political systems function. Nevertheless, although I was passionate about my field of studies, I was also uncertain about how my education and interests could be employed in the working sector. That's why I decided to apply for the Aurora Internship Program during my final year of University. Aurora provided me a truly eye-opening experience, which helped me develop my skills and knowledge in anthropology and politics.

I began my first day at the National Native Title Council (NNTC) as a delegate for the 2019 National Native Title Conference, hosted by the NNTC at the MCG in Victoria. The conference lasted two days at the start of June, and was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. For me it was a wonderful opportunity to meet advocates in the Native Title sector who have gained experience nationally and internationally. Some of whom I had the opportunity to network with, such as Judges from the Māori courts in New Zealand, Native Title Lawyers from Australia, Politicians, members and directors from different Representative Bodies from around Australia, and Prescribed Body Corporates from all around Country.

Following the conference, I was then given research projects focusing on: policy, legal and practical issues related to native title, PBCs and governance and economic development matters, and some research work regarding fact sheets for PBCs and native title groups. Nevertheless, in the end I spent half of my six week placement helping develop and update a spreadsheet, which collated Indigenous Land Usage Agreements (ILUAs) from all across Australia. The project requiring me to research how many new ILUAs have been recently enforced, and relate them back to the relevant Federal court Case and Native Title Determination (as displayed on the Nation Native Title Register).

For me personally, the research tasks definitely proved to be difficult at times. Prior to my internship I had never done Native Title Research before, so understanding what needed to be researched was difficult for me. Consequently, I found myself revisiting the same links and drop-down tabs on government websites about Native Title statistics, just to see if any of the data available could be useful for my projects. Nevertheless, in these moments of cluelessness, the members at the office offered me constructive help, which gave direction and support when I needed it. Alongside work, I also took the time to familiarize myself with staff from other Native Title corporations that resided in the same office complex as the NNTC. Some of whom I now regard as good friends and mentors of mine, even after my internship period finished.

All-in-all, the Aurora Internship Projgram was a truly eye opening program for myself. I got to see firsthand how political and anthropological research has contributed to legal policy development in Native Title. The people I have had the opportunity of meeting, and the conversation we have shared, will thus remain with me throughout my working career. I sincerely recommend this program to those individuals, like myself, who want to make a real impact with the skills and knowledge they have gained through their studies.