UQ student interns learn deeper appreciation of Indigenous issues

15 March 2017

Two University of Queensland Bachelor of Environmental Management students are among the first non-law and social science students to complete highly competitive Aurora Internship Program activities working in the Indigenous sector.

Third year students Teghan Collingwood of Toowoomba and Brisbane-based Harry James in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences completed internships in the Northern Territory and tropical North Queensland.

Teghan Collingwood
Teghan Collingwood

Teghan was selected for a five-week internship with Ninti One in Alice Springs, a not-for-profit that advocates for remote Australia.

“I’d followed their work over the past few years in the Indigenous sector, and was keen to get out into central Australia,” she said.

“During my time at Ninti One, my supervisor assigned me various tasks within two of their major programs – Stronger Communities for Children, and other work for the Aboriginal Community Researchers Initiative.

“Reflecting back on my experience, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific thing that I enjoyed most.

“Because I elected to travel remotely for my internship, I made a very special connection with the community of Alice Springs, as they became my support network.

“The internship was not only about the technical work I did in the office (although it was that too), but it was about the experience of working and living in a remote location, and observing the unique challenges people face living in the desert.

“The staff of Ninti One also made my time very special, providing me with heaps of opportunities to see the amazing country of central Australia. Perhaps the most memorable experience was a field trip to the remote Aboriginal community of Utopia Homelands, which was incredibly humbling.”

Harry James
Harry James

Harry worked with the Wet Tropics Management Authority in Cairns which administers Queensland’s Wet Tropics legislation and sets policies and procedures governing activities and land use within the Wet Tropics World Heritage area.

“I was placed with a planning and conservation team that issues permits for community infrastructure,” he said.

“It was fascinating work.  You can imagine the complexities when people need to build power lines and roads and communications towers in a World Heritage area, and how they can identify and consult with traditional owner groups.

“I worked with GIS mapping software creating a database of maps of rainforest Aboriginal groups and relevant community infrastructure in their country. 

“I had great opportunities to accompany team members in consultative visits in the field several times a week, and to see what plays out in the real world, building on our classroom learnings.”

Harry said the experience confirmed he should look for career options that improved the way humans could work with the environment in productive ways to achieve beneficial outcomes that were environmentally sustainable and met social and cultural needs.

Teghan said she would recommend Aurora Projects to other students interested in the broader Indigenous sector.

“While Aurora has previously focused on the Native Title sector, it is beginning to offer some really amazing opportunities to intern with host organisations in the environmental management and community development sector,” she said.

“The really great thing about this program is the diverse range of opportunities that are available depending on your interests.”

Applications for the Winter 2017 round of the Aurora Internship Program are open until March 31 at https://auroraproject.com.au/