Completion of the Aurora Project partnered Research Project

by Aurora intern – Ciarra VU

In my undergraduate studies, anthropology and sociology had a more theoretical purpose. But during my Master’s I took a course, Applied Anthropology and Indigenous Territories. This introduced me to a more practical sense of anthropology and provided a real purpose in Indigenous communities. The course inspired me to dig deeper into anthropology, but also find practical applications for social science and use it in ways that benefit Indigenous communities. When I heard of the Aurora Internship Program, I had to apply and was lucky enough to be granted an internship. The Aurora Internship Program works to do two things, provide students and graduates an opportunity to work with organisations in the Indigenous sector as well as support those organisations that might need additional office support. There were quite a few options within assisting the sector, there were opportunities in assisting with native title, opportunities with organisations training Aboriginal park rangers, policy and research, and many more. I struggled to pick which path I wanted to venture down.

Ultimately, the Gurehlgam Corporation stood out to me. Gurehlgam is an Aboriginal founded and run non-profit that centers on community development. My Master’s in development practice also led me down a focus of community development and fostering capacity building. Over the past two years I took classes unpacking Indigenous politics, fostering participatory development, and deconstructing development in the global south. I unlearned and relearned the impacts of colonisation. But Aurora provided me with the first opportunity to use my education and apply it. After discussing my interests and experience, the manager of Gurehlgam connected me with community leaders working to build service delivery programs for the North Coast Aboriginal Development Alliance (NCADA).

The NCADA works to empower Aboriginal communities and create sustainable solutions. This gelled well with my studies, which emphasises capacity building within local communities to create sustainable improvements for that community. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, I could not do the position in the office closer to the community I was researching. Instead I did my research from home in Brisbane about an hour or two away from Northern New South Wales. My role was to do preliminary research into service delivery programs already in place and to provide statistical analysis on the Aboriginal population on the North Coast. I collated existing programs and research on service delivery in the North Coast area and worked out prominent problems in the community. I looked into a wide array of topics: housing, education, employment, health and wellness, and crime. I have not done research that is not academically driven (with an overarching question that requires an argument or in-depth analysis). This experience taught me a very different style of research. Unlike academic research, this research held real world applications for service delivery programs in Aboriginal communities. I am immensely grateful to learn so much and be given such an opportunity to work for such a remarkable organisation. Overall this is an invaluable experience that I could not gain anywhere else. This work provides support for organisations that are often stretched thin. At the same time this work is so important and empowers Aboriginal communities.

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