Tessa Mayberry

Native Title
Summer 2017

The phrase ‘penultimate year’ seems to appear everywhere, for law students feeling the pressure to gain experience before graduating. Despite somehow being in my seventh year at uni (a terrifying realisation!), it felt like I’d blinked and was at the pointy, decision-making end of my studies. I applied for clerkships as per The Correct Way To Do Things, but knew I wanted to try something a bit out of the ordinary too.

My older sister had gone through the Aurora Internship Program a few years ahead of me and couldn’t speak highly enough of the program. It helped her to cultivate a strong interest in native title and I expected it would likely do the same for me. While I have long been passionate about social justice and Indigenous issues in a broad sense, I had never studied or had any meaningful involvement in native title. It’s safe to say, therefore, that I was a little anxious starting an internship in an area which is complex, not only legally but for a whole range of reasons. Soon enough, however, it was time to start my placement with Central Desert Native Title Services (CDNTS).

From the first week I was right in the thick of it, from drafting submissions to the Federal Court, to researching points of law, and attending Federal Court hearings. During my placement, the landmark McGlade decision was handed down, finding that the $1.3 billion Noongar Native Title Agreement was not valid. The day of the ruling I was asked to prepare a summary of the judgment for staff as quickly as I could. It was dynamic and exciting seeing the law adapting.

Toward the end of my placement a stroke of luck hit and I had the chance to go on country for an Applicant meeting. This was a highlight of my internship, as it made real many of the concepts I’d been growing familiar with. Even though I was expecting it, I was struck by my own ignorance regarding cultural considerations and challenges facing Aboriginal people, despite being well prepared thanks to CDNTS.

The CDNTS team was welcoming and offered all the support I could have wanted over the six weeks I interned. The guidance the staff gave me despite their busy workloads was humbling. I am also thrilled to have been offered casual part-time ongoing paid work as a paralegal at CDNTS.

In reflecting upon the placement I have two overwhelming feelings: that of appreciation that a program such as the Aurora Project exists, and secondly, a desire to encourage those freaking out in their ‘penultimate year’ or beyond to give something different a go, rather than getting caught up in the Should Dos that can dominate the path to employment. This internship will stand out when I look back on my degree and I imagine will resonate with me into the future.

For more information about the Aurora Internship Program check out their website: http://auroraproject.com.au/about-internship-program. Applications for the winter 2017 round close on Friday 31st March 2017 and will be open in August for the summer 2017/18 round.