Timothy Hampson

Native Title
Summer 2017

I was wondering how hot it was going to be when I disembarked from the plane at Broome. I soon worked that out when I put my hand on the window pane and felt the heat trying to penetrate the glass. When I stepped off the plane it was the hottest I had ever experienced. The weather was pretty much the same each day during my internship, however from about the second week into the internship I felt I had acclimatised.  

I came into this internship a little apprehensive having never studied Native Title Law at university. It was also my first internship. I knew it was an area of law I would find interesting. It also appealed to me because it was a unique area of law where it required the fusion of different disciplines, for example, Anthropology with the law working together to gather enough evidence so the Federal Court can make a determination that Native Title exists.

I received a very warm welcome on my first day at the Kimberley Land Council (KLC). Both my supervisors were friendly, easy to talk to and were willing to provide me with feedback even though they were both very busy. I found the KLC to be a very positive environment to work in. I also enjoyed the many conversations I had with staff members waiting for the kettle to boil or while sitting in the lunch area.

The internship certainly enabled me to enhance my research skills. Legal databases can, at times, be a bit tricky to operate effectively. However, I became very good at learning how to use all the suggested search tips to maximise research efficiency. I also enjoyed being exposed to different areas of law such as Mining law, Property law and Environmental Law.

I worked on a number of different tasks during my 5 weeks at the KLC including:

  • Collecting information and putting it into evidence in preparation for a Native Title Land claim.
  • Reviewing the High Court Rules and Practice Directions and writing a memo outlining the steps involved in commencing proceedings in the original jurisdiction of the High Court.
  • A research task that involved reviewing Queensland legislation to see if the KLC could get a lien over documents removed. A matter had been transferred from a Queensland law firm to the KLC but the law firm in Queensland refused to discharge the lien. I looked into how the KLC could obtain these documents. 
  • Reviewing Court Transcripts and compiling a chronology.
  • Researching Case law to see when Native Title holders had challenged the need to obtain licences in relation to exercising rights on their land.
  • Researching cases to see where Native Title rights had been temporarily suspended due to others’ interests in land.
  • Spending time navigating the Department of Parks and Wildlife website finding evidence that supported using fire to manage the land has been practice based in culture and tradition.
  • Research in relation to when native holders have tried to enforce rights post determination.
  • Researching the law surrounding unmanaged reserves. I had a look at all the statutory provisions that related to this kind of land tenure and prepared a Memo.
  • Compiling a list of cases in preparation for an upcoming trial.  

The highlight of my internship was going to Fitzroy Crossing to attend a Prescribed Body Corporate (PCB) meeting. The meeting was about 10 minutes out of town and took place under a tin shed. There was no fan and it was pretty challenging taking the Minutes on a 46 degree day. Notwithstanding the heat I enjoyed every bit of my time out at Fitzroy Crossing.  I have never had an experience like that before. We also took an indigenous man with us to the meeting. I remember fondly when he asked me to come and sit with his family to have a chat before dinner. The grand parents of the family told me stories about country and they were very proud about what their children and grandchildren were doing with their lives. The family even offered to take me to see the sacred sites on their land another time.

There was a common theme associated with all the conversations and interactions I had with aboriginal people during my placement. The need for both connection to their land and family is central to their happiness and wellbeing.

It was also great getting involved in the community for the five weeks I was in Broome and I did this by playing basketball three or four times a week at the local Recreation Centre. I also observed how happy and friendly the locals were, and they were always willing to help.

I would certainly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to do the Aurora Legal internship to take it without hesitation as it will provide a unique learning experience.