Sharne Harrington

Native Title
Summer 2019


I first heard about the Aurora internship while I was studying on exchange in Ghana last year. After a quick trip to Egypt, I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist! Even though I was just about to finish my degree in Anthropology.  In the height of my excitement, I searched through the websites of both the Australian Archaeological Association and the Australian Anthropological Associations which both led me to the Aurora Internship Program.  Until then I had never thought about doing an internship but all of a sudden I couldn’t think of a more appropriate endeavor.


I decided to apply for two main reasons. To learn about Australia’s incredible Indigenous culture and to get some insight into what my potential future career as an Anthropologist/Archaeologist could be like. I had only dabbled slightly in Indigenous Australia throughout my degree so my knowledge was limited, however, I have had a natural interest in Indigenous cultures throughout my years of travelling and studying around the world. Aurora seemed like it could provide me with the experience that I needed.


My 5 preferences for the internship were places as far away from Melbourne as possible, so I could experience and learn about different parts of Australia that I had never been before. I understood that this would be the more expensive option than choosing the city I live in but I knew it would add to my overall experience. Being placed at the Yamajti Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) in Perth allowed me to see parts of Western Australia that I had never seen been before, it also allowed me to learn about the Indigenous groups of the Pilbara and Yamatji regions whom YMAC represented.


The tasks I was given were varied and interesting. Under the direction of one of the archivist I was given a task to organize the Daisy Bates files. Daisy Bates was an untrained anthropologist who was employed to collect information throughout Western Australian tribes from 1901- 1910. YMAC has nearly the whole collection of her manuscripts. My task was to organize them into the correct folders, renaming and cleaning out old folders where necessary. I will be honest and say that I did find the file content more interesting than the organizing, and often got distracted reading her documents. She came up a lot when researching about Indigenous groups in Western Australia so it was exciting seeing her original documents about the genealogies and cultural aspects of the peoples that YMAC represent today. I was also asked to help on the Yugunga-Nya Connection Report Historical Sketch where I researched how disease and the rabbit proof fence had affected the Yamatji people in the Murchison area from around 1900. I spent some time at the State Library of Western Australia, reading documents from the archives, anthropologists field notes at YMAC and other readings I found on the topic. This was very exciting and made me feel I was a part of the team and really contributing! It also gave me an insight into the in depth research and time anthropologists put into Native Title Connection reports.

Sitting in on a video conference call with Budina clan (half in Perth half in Port Headland) was a great experience also. I assisted in signing off the members on the checklist as they arrived and was able to see how the YMAC lawyers negotiate and make decisions with the groups they are representing. Having discussions with the lawyers was also very interesting and gave me more of an understanding about native title from legal stance. I found the legal team and the heritage team both very willing to have discussions and answer any of my questions. They always took the time out to provide me with extra information.

All in all my time in Perth succeeded all of my expectations. I made a trip down to the Margaret river region, visited caves, swam with stingrays, drank some lovely wine, visited the 40000 year old pinnacles north of Perth and swam in the beautiful beaches all along the coast. The anthropologist at YMAC taught me so much about the field and through our conversations, steered me in the right direction for my honours thesis I will be doing next year. Working alongside the staff in other fields gave me a wider understanding of native title, and through the research tasks I learnt more about Indigenous Australia. I am still not 100% sure where my future lies but I know I am on the track because of my experience at YMAC.