Riley Watkin

Summer 2016

Little published information exists about the involvement of Indigenous Australians in World War I. A comprehensive record of the Aboriginal Victorians that served in the First World War is not readily available; their recorded histories are fragmented, incomplete, and are not collated. The role I was given throughout my internship was to thoroughly research primary and secondary sources in order to create an informed series of documents providing biographical information of Victorian Aboriginal servicemen. These documents would assist my supervisor in creating a commemorative publication for the surviving relatives of these servicemen, as well as the wider community.

I was introduced to this internship position through the Aurora Internship Program. The Aurora Internship Program organises internships for legal, anthropology and social sciences students and graduates at a number of Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) and many organisations working in Indigenous affairs Australia-wide. Through this Program, interns have the opportunity to experience working in the field, while providing additional assistance to each organisation. I undertook my internship at the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (OAAV). The OAAV is a key agency that provides advice to the Victorian Government on Aboriginal policy and planning and delivers key programs, particularly in the areas of community development, cultural heritage, and research. 

While the idea of working in a government office was daunting at first, I was welcomed warmly. I was given a very clear role, with clear expectations that allowed me to work both independently and collaboratively with staff at the OAAV. My supervisors were generous with their time, were approachable and very supportive. They made the effort to introduce me to other members of staff, and I was invited to both formal and informal meetings and events. Overall, I feel that I have made connections with passionate and inspiring people devoted to Aboriginal affairs.

Throughout my internship, I was required to report my experiences each week to the Aurora Placements team. These reports provided a consistent connection with the Aurora team, who, in turn, made me feel supported and valued. Reflecting upon my internship experience brings feelings of gratitude for the opportunity to have had such an experience of such growth on both personal and professional levels.

On a professional level, I feel that this internship has allowed me to both test and develop my research skills, collaboration skills, and communication skills, and has imbued in me a strong interest in Aboriginal affairs, and more specifically the contribution of Aboriginal servicemen and their families in WWI. As a recent graduate, this internship has given me the confidence and motivation to pursue employment in this complex field. 

On a personal level, leaving the academy, and applying my skills learned from my Bachelor of Arts (Indigenous Cultures and Histories/Anthropology) in a current community project was incredibly humbling and rewarding. It was also great to meet relatives of Aboriginal servicemen, and to learn about their experiences and their value for the commemoration of their loved ones. I am looking forward to following the project, and potentially hearing feedback from the families.

Applications for the winter 2016 round of internships open from 7 March through 1 April 2016. Visit: