Canberra. The name that automatically dredges up memories of visiting Parliament House and the War Memorial on primary school excursions. A place that immediately conjures vivid imagery of fireworks, Lake Burley Griffin and inescapable roundabouts.
But Canberra is also home to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. In 2015 I was fortunate enough to do a social science internship at AIATSIS as part of the Aurora Internship Program.
AIATSIS is a research body that covers Indigenous issues, culture, history, native title and policy. As a part of the internship, I had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Rod Kennett and Dr. Tran Tran at the Centre for Land and Water Research. Before my internship I had absolutely no idea what to. I wasn’t sure if I would be spending hours behind a printer collecting disparate sheets of paper or ordering soy cappuccinos.
During my internship I was assigned two projects. In the first project I conducted a qualitative study of community-based management plans for land and sea management by looking at the and Indigenous communities’ aspirations were. In the second project, I looked at the presentation (or lack thereof) of Indigenous interests and participation capacities in scientific reports addressing Australia’s ecosystems and marine areas. During my internship I also created draft reports from various workshops held as part of the National Native Title Conference.
I applied for an internship with the Aurora Project because I wanted to gain a deeper understanding about issues that Indigenous Australians face. I also wanted to be able to see how I can use the skills I have learnt in my degree in a practical setting. My internship experience fulfilled these aspirations and so much more. In only a matter of weeks, I felt as though I had learnt a university course-worth of content. I gained deeper knowledge and new perspectives into the aspirations of Traditional Owners, the complex managerial systems needed to negotiate a cavalcade of interests in maintaining the cultural integrity of country, and the challenges communities face in accessing and protecting country. I also learnt about the successes of Indigenous Ranger Programs and how they empower Indigenous individuals and communities, care for country and work with government agencies.
For me, the most important part of my internship experience was the research environment at AIATSIS. The AIATSIS team was fantastic and welcoming and always willing to discuss what their various projects were. They were always available to offer advice and assist in my projects. Luckily, I was also accompanied by another Aurora intern and a former Aurora intern. Their company meant that I always had someone to talk to or learn about what projects they were working on.
If you have an interest in the issues and challenges that Indigenous people face or in the ways in which Indigenous people can be empowered and assisted, then an Aurora internship is an experience you won't regret.
Applications for the summer 2015/16 Aurora internships are now open. Apply by Friday 28 August 2015 via the Aurora Project website.