Pragya Beri

Summer 2014

I applied to the Aurora Native Title Internship Program hoping to get placed with an organisation that could provide a medium to link my energy law studies with the native title laws. The Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements Project (ATNS) checked all my boxes and I was placed there as a summer intern for the 2013/2014 internship round.

Being an international student, the level of my knowledge in native title was zilch. I remember encountering the term native title often during the early stages of my course and wondered what it all meant. As the classes continued, so did its importance and my understanding. I remember picking up a brochure regarding the Aurora internship at a career fair in the university and knew instantly that this could help me take that first step towards understanding the native title process and everything about it. And there started my six weeks with the ATNS project and the lovely people who are part of it. The ATNS project is an Australian Research Council linkage project which is aimed to examine treaty and agreement making with the Indigenous population taking into account the nature of legal, cultural and social rights encompassed by past/present agreements. During my internship, one of my key tasks pertained to updating the ATNS database which is a gateway to a wealth of information on agreements entered between Indigenous groups, mining companies and other individuals. Reviewing these agreements on a daily basis helped me quickly understand the multitude of processes that go into establishing a native title claim. The learning process was made even  easier with the help of my colleagues who were just amazing people and welcomed me into the team very well. In order to ensure I didn't get too bogged down with agreements, my supervisor, Judy Longbottom engaged me in other tasks like researching information corresponding to the current phase of the project as well as  administrative tasks of the project.

However, the highlight of my internship was my work on a grant application to the Australian Research Council.  Even though it was towards the end of my internship,  this application helped me understand the current phase of our project in a concise manner such as the findings so far on the importance of education and training in the native title community and how that impacts the employment levels among  Indigenous people. This included consolidating the work of leading academics in the area of native title and relevant fields. I could never have gained this knowledge in a classroom setting. In law school, I was acquainted with the challenges between  mining corporations and Indigenous people. The focus was always more on what issues mining giants faced but this internship helped me understand the standpoint of the Indigenous community.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the ATNS team and would highly recommend it to every law student or graduate interested to work further in this field. I am also grateful to the Aurora Native Title Internship Program for providing such an opportunity for international students and opening up my career prospects in the field of native title.  More information about Aurora Internships can be found on their website at