UQ Anthropology student’s work experience in native title

18 Aug 2017

Former UQ Employability Ambassador Nina Kojovic reflects on her experience in the Aurora Internship Program, which places students at Indigenous sector organisations involved in native title, land rights, justice, policy and community development, health, social welfare and research, Australia wide.

In preparation for my mid-year graduation from UQ Bachelor of Arts Honours in Anthropology, I applied for the winter 2017 round of the Aurora Internship Program.

During my time as a UQ Employability Ambassador in 2015, I had researched the Aurora Education Fund and helped facilitate past interns share their stories with UQ undergraduates.

Aurora is one of the best, structured internships available for interested social science students (particularly in anthropology) and during my coursework I had an inkling that the experience would contribute greatly to the practical application of what I was learning.

I was fortunate to be placed on a six-week internship with Native Title Services Victoria (NTSV). The experience has set me on a path to working as a junior anthropologist in native title and I am honoured to share a few snippets from my time in Melbourne.

Throughout my undergraduate program and Honours research I read widely about Indigenous Australian history and connection to country for Aboriginal people.

This informed a burgeoning view about the way Aboriginal people’s rights can be empowered and supported through existing legislation. In fact, the internship gave me the opportunity to challenge my views, get a taste for the technical elements of preparing connection materials for a claim and ascertain something about the motivations of others working in the sector.

The team at NTSV were welcoming, supportive and encouraging during my internship and enjoyed sharing their insights and answering questions.

My placement timing created an opportunity to help one of the senior anthropologists prepare materials and resources that would be used to develop a threshold statement, i.e., the primary form of documentation of association to country (‘connection’) under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2001 (Vic).

Over the six weeks I was able to complete consecutive tasks for the same project, building on the lessons learned to add more analysis and interpretation in my work. I gained unique insights into the complexity of using primary sources and historical accounts in native title research.

I also became aware of important contextual knowledge about the way complicated kin groups and relationship are brought together in a native title claim and how this causes stress and frustration for those going through the process.

The senior researchers challenged me to adopt my own opinion and perspective on what I was reading and interpreting to inform my growth as a young scholar.

I was pleased to observe the diverse views of the researchers at NTSV and how they came together to illuminate different aspects of a claim, the claim process, and fieldwork.

Seeing this dynamic encouraged me to read more about the work I was completing and be bolder in my interpretation when appropriate. I could sense the impact the internship was having on my confidence and approach to an inter-disciplinary research practice.

Upon reflection, the experience has caused a shift in my ethos both towards ‘the field’/working with community and towards the role of Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs).

Through my internship I have gained an awareness of the impact of Australia’s colonial history, the importance of post-settlement records and the ethnographic work of anthropologists, all of which have a rawness which makes you feel something about the work you are doing.

My deep respect and appreciation for the role of anthropologists and historians in native title has increased exponentially over my six weeks with NTSV. I am inspired by the dedication of the team to their personal and professional research endeavours, and I would be honoured to join a team such as theirs to pursue work as an anthropologist.

I would recommend an Aurora internship to anyone who is interested in a career in native title or within the broader Indigenous sector of Australia. 

Applications for the summer 2017/2018 round of the Aurora Internship Program close on Friday 25th August 2017.