Samantha Varghese

Organisation: 
Stream: 
Legal
Sector: 
Policy/Research
Location: 
Melbourne
Round: 
Winter 2018

 

I stumbled into my first day at the National Native Title Council (NNTC) with no idea of what to expect. I had just come out of a Bachelor in Commerce, knowing that business wasn’t something I wanted to pursue and decided to take the plunge into human rights/social justice work. At this point I was snatching up any work experience I could get my hands on, but an Aurora internship was something I’d been crossing my fingers over for some time.

 

I was placed at the NNTC office in North Melbourne, on a part time internship spanning over six weeks under the Social Sciences stream. I went into it with only a brief outline of what I would be doing and having no prior experience in the Indigenous sector. Within my first couple of days however, things started to take shape and I could see the internship already surpassing my expectations.

 

Within my first week here I was thrown into the deep end, attending a conference conducted by the NNTC and Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that was to tour around Australia and discuss native title. It was an enormous load of information, but also one of the most insightful experiences I’ve had. Hearing real life stories and listening to the people who stood at the forefront of this field went well beyond what you could learn from a textbook.

 

Following the conference, I was given a research task that would carry me through the rest of my placement. I was asked to write a literature review that would feed into current discussions around the Close The Gap refresh approach. It was very much an ambiguous, stream of conscious type task that gave me full autonomy over the shape it would form. I was tasked with finding gaps in the literature around Indigenous health and wellbeing inequalities and how this can be followed up with further research to inform campaign targets. Being such a topical area, I found this work to be extremely useful in unpacking current conversations on Indigenous politics. I’d written plenty of literature reviews in my degree, but this felt so much more productive and meaningful.

 

The research task definitely proved overwhelming at times. I found myself getting confused in the direction I was taking, particularly because this time I didn’t have a structure or grading criteria to refer to. It was in these situations that my colleagues proved to be the biggest asset to my work. The staff were always so welcoming and friendly, so I didn’t hesitate to ask them for help or a second opinion. I also reached out to industry experts, the response of which I was incredibly excited by. This included advice from Marcia Langton who pointed me towards a lecture series that ended up driving my research.

 

Above all, I found an opportunity to work in Indigenous affairs extremely personally fulfilling. Educating myself on this area is something I regard as so important and being in a space full of people who were dedicated to this work was extremely inspiring. What I have learnt from the internship is something that will stick with me and inform the rest of my work in future. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for work experience with a real difference.

 

Applications for internships are open in March and August of each year. Simply visit http://www.auroraproject.com.au/Internships.htm to find out more.