I like to joke that I ‘bloomed late,’ starting University at the tender age of 30. For the first year I was in awe of the fact that I was finally here at university. I was doing it! I had almost forgotten that there were a million other opportunities available to me, so when my anthropology lecturer mentioned the Aurora Internship Program, my interest was piqued.

I decided it was worth giving it a go; I would apply and see what the interview process was all about.  I certainly never imagined that I would be offered the internship. I was heading to Central Land Council (CLC) in Alice Springs! Leaving the cold Melbourne winter and heading to sunny Alice Springs where the weather was still hitting 28 degrees was a huge added bonus.

I began to organise and prepare to present my best ‘intern’ self by enquiring as to the dress code at CLC. I was sent a text from my soon-to-be supervisor saying that the dress code was neat casual, adding that there was absolutely no bare-feet in the office, not even just to go to the photocopier! Right. All sounding very relaxed, and that was exactly the vibe I came to expect in the CLC office. CLC staff were casual yet professional, friendly, fun, welcoming and warm, while at the same time hard working, passionate and insightful.

CLC are a well-resourced and supportive organisation. They arranged to have me picked up from the airport and took me for a quick meet and greet at the office. Everyone came up to eagerly introduce themselves and make me feel welcomed and comfortable in the office. This was the case for my entire internship. People constantly introduced themselves to me and checked in to see how I was going and even asked me things like “Who is your favourite anthropologist?” – a question I still don’t know the answer to.

During my time at CLC I was given a whole bunch of research tasks regarding local Aboriginal groups within the Northern Territory, their cultural similarities and differences, as well as intricate skin systems. My personal expectations were that I was the intern and the intern was the slave. But nobody was giving me any mundane office jobs! I have learned so much, and the few occasions that I did some shredding, printing or photocopying, I made sure I always kept my shoes on.

I feel like I have a better understanding of some of the fundamentals of Aboriginal Communities, of how Native Title works and how places like CLC work to make Native Title claims a reality for the communities they work for. I have an in-depth knowledge of Walpiri Skin Systems, including Kirda (patrilineal) and Kurdungurlu (matrilineal) and the local Jukurrpa (dreaming tracks). The sub-section systems and Kirda/Kurdungurlu are interrelated classification systems that relate to who can marry who, as well as who is responsible for dreamings and ceremonies.

For CLC workers to work well with their indigenous clients, they require an intricate understanding of how local cultures work, and this is illustrated throughout the office with many staff speaking fluent Aranda language as well as other language groups from the Northern Territory area.

I also had the privilege of accompanying another anthropologist from CLC on a trip to Arlparra, in Utopia, during which I was able to exercise my fine fire making skills. This trip gave me first-hand experience of what anthropologists do in Aboriginal communities and how they consult with traditional owners to get clearances for work in communities.

All in all, my internship with CLC was a unique experience which I will always remember. The visit has developed my knowledge and interest in anthropology, Aboriginal Australia and Native Title. I would encourage anyone to apply for an Aurora internship, and seek out their own unique internship experience.

Applications for Summer and Winter 2018 open August 2017

By Jessie Lea Skillicorn
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