As a Law and Social Science student, I had heard about the Aurora Internship Program and the amazing internships that could be undertaken in the areas of anthropology, health science, social science and law. I also knew it was a very competitive program, so it was only when my University Convenor brought it to my classes’ attention that I really considered applying.
The Aurora Internship Program organises internships for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and graduates with organisations that work within the Indigenous sector. These internships can be anywhere in Australia, and while COVID-19 prevented a lot of on-site interstate placements, there is normally an opportunity to go on country and/or work closely with metropolitan and regional Indigenous communities.
The application process involved submitting a resume, CV and recommendation letter, and completing a pre-recorded video interview. After submitting my placement preferences, I was accepted into the program and placed at the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC). I listed the NSWALC as one of my preference organisations as it is the state peak body for smaller Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs). I was really excited about this internship, as I am passionate about Indigenous rights and ATSI protections under law; yet had no real experience of working with Native Title and Land Rights matters. Particularly in light of international movements such as #BLM, I thought my internship would be a great opportunity to learn more about the legal system as it relates to Indigenous rights.
My experience of interning with the NSWALC was vastly different when compared to previous interns, as I was interning from home as a result of COVID-19. While I am used to studying and working from home, I felt somewhat nervous starting a new position in a new team, and not being able to meet and learn in person. All of that worry quickly left though, as the Legal Services Team were welcoming, attentive, happy to answer any questions I had, and utilised technology in a way that ensured we all stayed connected.
My main task throughout my placement was to review Ministerial rejections of Land Rights claims to ensure they were legitimately refused. When a claim is brought forth by the NSWALC or by a LALC, it is submitted to the Minister of NSW Planning, Industry & Environment. The Minister, or their delegates, can then refuse a Land Rights claim granted it complies with the refusal grounds under Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. Some of these grounds include if it is reserved as a national park, if it is privately owned, or if the land already has a Native Title claim. If refused, the job of the NSWALC is to review the refusal to ensure that it has been done correctly and nothing has been overlooked by the Department. This was my role and it required me to prepare a file note on each refusal, analysing why it was refused. I found this work really interesting as I worked on refusals based on different grounds and got the opportunity to analyse property documents, maps and different laws.
I am really grateful for the opportunity to intern at the NSWALC as it exposed me to a new area of law and built my knowledge of Indigenous law and legal skills. I strongly encourage current students or recent graduates to apply for the Aurora internship Program. It is a great hands-on experience and gives you the opportunity to try new areas of law or work for organisations of interest to you in a supportive and meaningful way. If this is something you would be interested in or want to read more about, be sure to check out https://auroraproject.com.au/about-internship-program for further details! Applications for the summer 2020/21 round will be open from 10-28 August online via the website.