Sophie Heath

Health Science
Social Welfare services
Winter 2019

My background undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Business in Economics and Finance. I am currently completing a Doctor of Medicine. The Aurora Internship Program was an opportunity for me to connect with and gain more exposure to the Indigenous sector. I feel there is great value in learning and working in a variety of areas so our people can really become more aware of the work currently being undertaken and the persistent issues we are facing.

I completed a four-week placement with SNAICC – National Voice for Our Children. It is based in Melbourne’s inner-city suburb of Collingwood. Representing the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families, SNAICC is the national non-government peak body in Australia.

I was given a research paper to complete over the duration of my time at SNAICC. It was to find evidence both Australian and International that demonstrates the effective outcomes resulting from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Community-Controlled Organisations working in the space of Early Childhood Education, Safety and Wellbeing. It was particularly interesting that the Indigenous populations of other countries such as the United States, Canada and New Zealand also experience similar issues. I also attended one of the conferences that SNAICC hosted. It included a range of organisations both government and Aboriginal community-controlled, working in partnership to jointly collaborate on current challenges faced by Indigenous people in the Victorian child protection sector. It was highly encouraging that progress despite being slow, is being made and further highlighted the value in achieving better outcomes by incorporating Aboriginal people and community organisations into the processes.

This was my first time working in a not-for-profit organisation as my prior experience has been in large corporate companies. The environment is extremely positive and very welcoming, everyone is so inclusive. The team was very flexible and understanding as I was commuting about four hours each day they allowed me to complete some days from home. It is really inspiring seeing so many people who are so passionate about bettering the outcomes of Indigenous children. Everyone is also very generous with their time, always happy to sit down and take you through their work. I was continually made to feel appreciated for my contribution and time which really goes a long way to making work enjoyable.

Prior to this work, I had very limited exposure to the child protection space. I admit this experience broke down a lot of preconceived and ill-informed notions I had about the children and their families particularly the Indigenous ones that are removed and placed in out-of-home care. It has really highlighted the inequities and systemic problems that underline the current system and continue to further the disproportionate over-representation of Indigenous children in the child protection area. Following my internship, I actually have a greater sense of pride in my cultural identity and feel more empowered to advocate in this area. I hope to maintain contact with the organisation and the team. I have already even returned as a volunteer for some work they were doing.                                                                                                  

I highly encourage others to consider applying for the Aurora Internship Program. With a large variety of partnership organisations, they are well positioned to offer experience in a range of areas with a particular focus on the Indigenous sector. I believe actually working within an area gives you a unique learning opportunity with a specialised and greater understanding of the nuances of that work. I also feel greater education of such organisations and their work offers greater empowerment and stronger advocacy for our people.