Attention All Anthropologists



At JCU we often hear the most important trait employers look for is experience – but where do we get this experience from?

I’m a fourth year JCU student studying a Bachelor of Arts-Bachelor of Science degree with an Anthropology major. Last year I wanted to get some work experience, but I had no idea where to start! It seemed like there weren’t many opportunities in Townsville, so I typed “anthropology internship” on Google. A link to the Aurora Internship Program popped up. This program helps students and recent graduates in Anthropology, Law and Social Sciences apply for placements with Indigenous organisations all over Australia. It was perfect! I was offered a five-week placement with the Northern Land Council (NLC) in Darwin, NT.

I had never been to Darwin before, or worked in an Indigenous organisation, so I was slightly nervous walking into the Northern Land Council offices. However, on my first day I was fully welcomed and introduced to more people than I could count! I was placed with the Anthropology unit to give me a small taste of the life of a Native Title anthropologist. My first task was to create bibliographies of potential witnesses for a land claim hearing. I researched using the NLC anthropology archives and found reports, interpreted family trees, read statements and learnt about the history and sacred sites of the area.

That was only the start of countless opportunities I received to learn about the Native Title process, both from my supervisor and the rest of the Anthropology department. For instance, I created a sacred site register by going through records of Dreaming stories. It was fascinating to track the travels of the Dreaming beings (or Songlines), which ended up showing which group owned the land. My challenges with the GIS mapping system were also finally rewarded by seeing my research on my own map! Sitting in on Traditional Owner meetings, updating genealogies and even typing meeting minutes made me feel part of the action. In my final two days, I had the amazing opportunity to go to the NT Supreme Court and watch the cross-examination of two senior anthropologists over a land claim. It wasincredible to see ‘basic’ concepts I had learnt in university lectures became integral to the debate.

My favourite experience of my placement was going out on country to a small Aboriginal community near Darwin. I was the notetaker for a meeting of land claimants with our lawyers and anthropologist. The claimants discussed their right to the land, going through their family histories and Dreamtime stories to prepare for a visit to those sites. Sitting down with the older women as they shared their experiences was such a privilege. We also took a break to visit the community school and participated in a cultural dance with the youngest members of the community. Being there drove home for me the real value of Native Title work and the advocacy of the NLC.

My experience was eye-opening and has led me to really consider a career in the field! I would definitely recommend an Aurora internship to students and graduates who are interested in working in the Indigenous sector.

Monica Donohue
Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science | Archive

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