When I arrived into Broome, I expected it to be hot—it was the middle of the wet season, a time where, apparently, no one really visits Broome—but nothing could prepare me for the hit of 80 per cent humidity, or the instant sweat, that greeted me when I landed at Broome Airport. I was about to undertake a five-week internship at the Kimberley Land Council through the Aurora Internship Program.
About a month before embarking on my journey up to Broome I had completed my Bachelor of Laws at Curtin University, with a passion for Native Title and Indigenous legal issues. My knowledge of Native Title was fairly limited so I thought that a trip to the Kimberley—a far north region rich in untouched landscapes—would be a good place to start.
Upon starting at KLC I was given the opportunity to meet all of their lawyers, amongst other staff, who were extremely welcoming and friendly. Over the course of the next few weeks, I was lucky enough to gain experience in a diverse range of areas within the organisation.
My first week involved assisting lawyers within the claims unit, by drafting submissions for the National Native Title Tribunal, and deeds of assignment, variation and heritage protection agreements. I was also able to learn the way that future act matters worked, which is when a party wants to do something on Native Title Land. Each future act can be different and has different effects on the rights and interests of Native Title Holders.
For the rest of my placement I worked with the Prescribed Bodies Corporate unit, where I was lucky enough to work alongside experienced lawyers who provided me with some challenging but very rewarding tasks, including research on the recent Federal Court decision (the High Court have since handed down their decision that was on appeal) regarding the Timber Creek Native Title Compensation. This landmark case in the High Court is centred around the difficult question of how to value Native Title rights and interests, in order to award compensation for Native Title that had been extinguished by various activities on the land.
One of my favourite experiences was being taken out to a remote Indigenous community to speak with some traditional owners; it’s a memory that will stick with me forever. Hearing stories about being raised on country, and the importance of traditions and culture being continued through generations was really eye-opening. It was so important to the people I spoke to, to ensure their traditional lands were protected, as they have such a strong spiritual connection to them. It really drove home to me how hard they have had to fight to get their native title rights and interests recognised, and how hard they continue to fight to get these rights acknowledged by parties who want to come onto their land without permission.
Saying that my time at KLC was extremely rewarding and enriching is an understatement. As a result of my placement, I have come to realise how much work still needs to be done in this area in order to bring the standards of acknowledgement and recognition of land rights up to where it should be. It’s an area of law that I think would be extremely rewarding to work in, and after my internship I would encourage any law students with a passion for Native Title to undertake an Aurora internship to experience something truly different and inspiring. And finishing most days off with an afternoon beverage watching the sunset at Cable Beach made the full-time hours bearable.
I also spent my afternoons and weekends being a tourist and some of the must-see places would have to be Gantheaume Point for a sunset and swim in the rock pools. Cable Beach to sit and watch the sun go down and do a sunset camel ride. Cape Leveque up the Dampier Peninsula where the red earth meets the white sand and turquoise ocean. The natural beauty of the Kimberley makes it a very unique and special place.
A hot tip: I was able to use this internship for my PLT hours through the College of Law. So, if you are also graduating and unsure of where you will be doing your hours, an Aurora internship would be a perfect option!
For more information on their internships, visit Aurora’s website. Applications open March and August each year.