My Aurora Project Experience
By Annaleise Bryant
Having made it to the half-way point in my law/arts degrees and still having no clue what area of law best appealed to me, I was looking for some work experience that would give me a better idea of where I might like to work in a few years’ time. I applied to the Aurora Native Title Internship Program, that places interns in unpaid 5 to 6 week placements with under staffed and under resourced Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) and Indigenous organisations working in policy development and social justice nationwide. I was fortunate enough to be offered a five week placement with the Goldfields Land and Sea Council (GLSC). Given it was during the winter university break, I opted for the Kalgoorlie office, thinking the change of scene would be interesting.
‘Interesting’ is one word to describe the whole experience. My time with the GLSC was much more than that though. Having grown up in a rural town, I felt I already had a basic understanding of the difficulties Aboriginal people face in relation to health care, education and other social matters. I did not, however, realise how excruciating the area of Native Title law must be for the Aboriginal people involved and the hard-working staff at the NTRBs who take on much more than they are equipped for and who often bear the brunt of much of the frustration and anger felt by those involved. Working alongside the people at the GLSC allowed me a close look at the realities of the situation and the difficulties still to be overcome.
There was a claim group meeting scheduled for my first day of work and I was asked to take minutes. This was a perfect way to settle in, hear from the Aboriginal people there to represent their claim group, meet the other GLSC staff and get an idea of how the whole process works. Over the duration of my internship my supervisors gave me an excellent mixture of work, ranging from the relatively straight forward, to tasks I had never attempted before. I drafted letters, completed an affidavit, sat in on several meetings to take minutes, prepared file notes, completed research on case law and changes to some regulations, followed by preparation of memoranda on that research to explain my conclusions. One of the most interesting tasks I was given was to essentially break down the reply from a mining company about a proposed mining lease and the evidence they had offered in support of their contentions, before preparing an analysis and recommended for the native title party. The work I was doing was relevant, thought-provoking and useful to others – it was not purely for my benefit or simply to keep me busy; knowing that the work I was doing was actually helpful was particularly motivating.
Choosing the Kalgoorlie office, though more difficult in terms of living away from home and having to factor in a reduced income, accommodation and so on, was I think, an excellent decision in the end. Being in a country town puts you in much closer proximity to Aboriginal people and opportunities arise that you would not otherwise be able to take advantage of. As a result, I have a stronger understanding of cultural awareness, and I was able to meet some incredibly passionate and interesting people to hear what they had to say.
There are many things I will take away from my time as an Aurora intern but three I would like to mention. Firstly, I have a much greater appreciation for the men and women involved in native title. It is an extremely challenging area, but one that is very worthwhile pursuing. Secondly, my knowledge of this particular area of law is stronger and I have a better idea of what working life and the kind matters you undertake on a day-to-day basis may be like. And thirdly, the practical skills the internship has given me the opportunity to develop go beyond what you are able to learn in University, and will stand me in good stead for the future.
Overall, yes, my time at the GLSC was very interesting, but it was also revealing, rewarding and a very worth-while experience I would highly recommend. If you wish to find out more about the Aurora program, other student’s experiences or other organisations that accept interns all over Australia, that information is readily available on the Aurora website at www.auroraproject.com.au. Applications for the summer 2012/13 round of internships will be open from 6th through to the 31st August 2012 online via the website.