JCU undergraduate Planning student Brianna Taylor recently completed an internship with the Central Land Council (CLC). She describes the experience:
Prior to university I worked for several years in administrative positions but always felt there was something bigger and better out there for me. Something more meaningful and with a higher purpose. After moving to Cairns and commencing studies at James Cook University I found what I was looking for through my degree in Urban, Regional and Rural Planning.
My degree has been quite broad, encompassing economics, social and environmental science subjects. This has given me the chance to explore many different areas of interest and has awakened a passion in cultural and development studies. One of my favourite subjects focused on Indigenous environmental management and from that I gained an insight into Indigenous history as well as into different ways of being and knowing that has helped shape a new way of looking at the world. From this experience I wanted to utilise my degree to provide better access to goods, services and opportunities for Indigenous people in the community, with the broader goal of promoting social inclusion.
The Aurora internship gave me the chance to work with an Indigenous organisation and obtain a firsthand learning experience with Indigenous people about their culture, their achievements, and the challenges they face. The written application requirement was quite detailed and took time and effort to compile. But once that was done, the remainder of the selection process including the interview was smooth and very well organised by the Aurora team. There were so many impressive organisations to choose from so I preferenced locations I had never been to before and was fortunate to be selected to join the Central Land Council (CLC) in Alice Springs.
During my time with CLC I worked with the policy team and was assigned two primary projects, the first to complete a literature review on joint management arrangements in protected areas, and the second to populate an Endnote database. The joint management project expanded to include not only a literature review but also meetings with senior staff, interviews with community development officers, an analysis of joint management records, compilation of land management plans and community development project files, and the creation of a central database. I also was given the opportunity to accompany the media team on research fieldtrips to several remote Aboriginal communities. On these trips I took notes in focus group sessions which would then be used to help improve the CLC’s media publications. In addition, I was able to attend a rally in town about Indigenous housing and attend a monthly executive meeting.
My work with CLC will contribute to a research project examining the outcomes of jointly managed parks in Central Australia. The aim of the research is to investigate the outcomes of joint management from the perspectives of Traditional Owners. Personally, this experience has brought to light the many challenges which still face rural and remote Indigenous communities; such as access to medical treatment, the crisis facing remote community housing supply, including delays with housing maintenance work, limited culturally appropriate education and insufficient transport and telecommunication provision. Many of these issues are closely linked to planning and are issues I hope to positively contribute to in future.
Working with CLC gave me a valuable insight into the operations of an organisation with a strong Indigenous voice. I gained a greater understanding of the many barriers that still exist in Indigenous lives. But I also gained a greater awareness of what can be achieved when Indigenous people are in the driving seat: where there is local control and local engagement. Most importantly I saw that there are many people who are actively working towards making positive change.
Outside of work there was a range of outdoor activities to explore in and around Alice Springs. I loved camping in the West MacDonnell Ranges, cycling to Simpson’s Gap, and visiting the spectacular Uluru and Kata Tjuta sites. And I even found a great coffee spot in town to enjoy. These experiences outside of work equally contributed to my learning and understanding of the history and culture of the Central Australian region.
The experience Aurora has afforded me has given me professional experience in my area of interest and will provide me with a valuable point of difference when I graduate. I would recommend the Aurora Internship Program to university students and recent graduates looking for a professional insight into Indigenous affairs.
There are two rounds of placements in summer and in winter, applications for which open in March and August through the Aurora website.
See http://www.auroraproject.com.au/aurorainternshipprogram for more details.
Applications for the winter 2016 round are currently open until Friday 1st April 2016.