Sarah Smith

Native Title
Summer 2014

At the completion of my university degree I was fortunate enough to be accepted by the Aurora Native Title Internship Program as an anthropology intern for the 2013/14 summer round. I was lucky to receive a place at my first preference, Native Title Services Victoria (NTSV). As an anthropology major student I was introduced to the area of native title but would not have considered myself to be confident in completely understanding what it involved. This along with the curiosity of what a career as an anthropologist may look like is what drove me to apply for an Aurora internship. The application process was straightforward and the opportunities available exciting. I was notified of my successful application and then started my six week internship two weeks later in the months of November and December. This was a great time of year to be an intern, not only did I learn an extensive amount but I was lucky enough to join in the social activities that tend to occur during this time of year.

All interns are advised by Aurora staff to enter their internship with lower expectations as most organisations are understaffed and over worked. At NTSV my expectations were met and exceeded. I was given numerous tasks ranging from, filing, book binding and data entry, to creating family genealogies and transcribing notes and interview material. However, the most exciting task that I was involved in was interviews with claimants whilst on fieldwork in Mildura and Robinvale. Here I was able to put into practice the ethnographic fieldwork approaches that I had learnt at university, whilst also getting to observe an anthropologist within the field.

Additionally I was fortunate enough to be invited to and attend the recognition and settlement agreement between the Dja Dja Wurrung People and the State of Victoria. This was a very important and emotional day for the Dja Dja Wurrung people and for the staff of NTSV who worked on this claim. It was a day that I will always remember and that showed me the importance of native title.  Furthermore I was lucky enough to attend a directions hearing in court, which was very interesting for me as a researcher, as the legal side of native title is not an area I know much about.

When I was not away on fieldwork or at Recognition ceremonies or direction hearings, I was in the office assisting anthropologists and historians with family genealogy research or attending research meetings. There was always something to do and a friendly staff member needing assistance. Numerous staff members took the time to get to know me and find out about my research and career interests and gave me advice and assistance where possible; something that not was not specifically expected of them to do as a host organisation. My time at NTSV opened my eyes and mind to the complexities of native title whilst creating an aspiration to work in the area. However, besides all of the practical skills and knowledge that I learnt and gained, NTSV also provided a friendly, welcoming and comfortable environment to work and learn. I suggest that anyone wanting to learn more about native title or applied anthropology more generally, should take the opportunity to be an Aurora intern and hope that you are lucky enough to secure a spot at NTSV.