Shenpaha Ganesan

Native Title
Summer 2020

Over the summer of 2019, I was fortunate enough to undertake a four-week Aurora internship as part of the Aurora Internship Program at First Nations Legal and Research Service (FNLRS) in Melbourne. My academic knowledge of Indigenous affairs was integral to understanding the history, context and nuances of Indigenous affairs. However, it was only through my internship at FNLRS that I became aware of the intersecting complexity of native title and the legal frameworks which support it.

While I was acutely aware of the Native Title Act and its shortfalls, learning about various alternatives developed by Victoria in particular, gave me a sense of hope for the future of native title recognition. For example, I learnt about the Victorian Traditional Owner Settlement Act (TOSA) which allows Traditional Owners and the State to reach an agreement over native title recognition without the court’s involvement. I also had a unique opportunity to attend a native title hearing in court where I witnessed first-hand the way in which the interaction between the Native Title Act and TOSA could expand and secure greater possibilities for both Traditional Owners and the State.

During my internship, I also undertook a range of other tasks such as writing case summaries, undertaking legal research, writing and editing minutes as well as collating and filing documents. One of the more challenging tasks I undertook was writing a case summary of a recent native title case relating to “legal professional privilege”, “without professional privilege” and anthropological reports. Reading the case and writing up the case summary provided significant insight into the practical complexity of native title law.

I also learnt so much more from undertaking “menial” administrative tasks which essentially formed the backbone of Indigenous Corporations and the duties and responsibilities they undertake. From this, I learnt to welcome any task given to me with open arms, as tasks which came with the subject line “filing”, or “administration”, were what I learnt the most from.

The staff at FNLRS were a warm and welcoming team. Each staff member had so much knowledge and experience to offer and I took away something different from not only the legal team, but also those from the anthropology and policy team. Most importantly however, it was truly inspiring to see the dedication the team as a whole had to serving Traditional Owners and members of the Indigenous community. I am extremely grateful to FNLRS for having me in their office and allowing me to ask the questions I wanted and learn from their wealth of expertise.

All this would not have been possible without the Aurora Internship Program for coordinating and managing internships within the Indigenous sector across Australia. I would definitely encourage any student or graduate interested in gaining an insight into the Indigenous sector in their relevant field to undertake an Aurora Internship Program. Applications open in summer and winter each year.


Applications for the winter round 2020 will open from 2 March through 27 March at