I first learnt of the Aurora Internship Program through a university careers handbook for law students – which published an article about working in native title law. The author said the program would be a great opportunity for anyone desiring experiences “in remote Australia that you can only dream of.” I didn’t fully know what that meant then but following the completion of my Aurora internship at Central Desert Native Title Services (CDNTS), I certainly do now.
After emailing CDNTS asking about volunteer opportunities (to which I was informed interns are hosted through Aurora) and receiving yet another encouragement from a university lecturer who promoted the program one day, I finally did what I knew I had to do - and applied for the winter 2019 round. Being assigned to CDNTS – the very place I wanted to volunteer several months earlier – was perhaps the best outcome that could have resulted from my application. Situated in the vibrant, leafy streets of East Perth, the CDNTS office – reminiscent of an old school building – was unlike any legal environment I had ever been introduced to before. The office staff demonstrated to me that they are warm, welcoming, cheerful and relaxed – despite the significant workloads and clearly under-resourced nature of the representative work they undertake.
Throughout my four weeks part-time in the office – I conducted legal research, helped draft documents, took notes and minutes, attended meetings, read legislation, summarised cases, and attended an annual native title user group conference alongside some of the brightest minds in the profession. However, the highlight of my placement was the incredible opportunity I had to go out on country for a claim group meeting hosted in Leonora (3 hours drive from Kalgoorlie). To me, this was the experience of a lifetime, but to the CDNTS lawyers that accompanied me, it was just another day at work. I now understand that this is what work as a rep body lawyer is like – and indeed, these unique experiences spanning every corner of our beautiful desert are such that others really can only dream about them.
I would recommend this program to anyone who is even so much as wondering what native title law is all about, or looking to experience an area of law that is incredibly relevant yet rarely discussed at law school. Not only did I come away from my internship with a far greater knowledge of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) and fundamental principles of native title law, I also have a new-found appreciation for alternative legal pathways post-graduation, which is perhaps even more valuable. I cannot thank the CDNTS staff enough for sharing their work with me and showing me that there are so many possibilities for a career in the law that is dynamic, rewarding, meaningful and impacting of real, tangible social change.