The beginnings of a lifetime of knowledge and learning

23 Apr 2014

The Aurora Project is an organisation which places students and graduates at Native Title Representative Bodies and Aboriginal social enterprises and policy organisations in unpaid internships. The Aurora Native Title Internship Program accepts Law, Anthropology, some Social Science (namely archaeology, cultural heritage and environmental management) and some business students and graduates from throughout Australia.

Portia Hamilton, a UQ Masters of Museum Studies alumna, recently undertook an internship with the Aurora Project. UQ Advancement asked her a few questions about her scholarship experience, and what she has planned for the future.

UQA: What led you to undertake a Masters of Museum Studies at UQ?

PH: I graduated from Griffith University in 2011 with a BA in History and Cultural Heritage. I saw my future options as twofold:
a) Honours in History at Griffith University or
b) Masters of Museum Studies at University of Queensland.  
I had already completed an internship at the Museum of Brisbane and I wanted to forge a career path in the museums and galleries industry. Completing a Masters degree under Dr Graeme Were at the reputable University of Queensland was definitely a rewarding experience.

As a University of Queensland Masters of Museum Studies graduate, I was forwarded an email about the internship program five months before I was able to undertake an internship. Excited about the prospects of working within the field of Indigenous affairs, I began to prepare my application in July as well as enrol in some Aboriginal Studies and Anthropology units at UQ. Cut to early November and I was packing my bags ready to begin my journey. I was sent to the Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation (DAC), which is located just outside Camooweal, Queensland—twenty kilometres from the Northern Territory border.

UQA: How long was the internship, and how long were you based at Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation?

PH: The internship was based at Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation (DAC) in Camooweal for six weeks and was made possible by the Aurora Native Title Internship Program, which is partnered with a range of Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRB) and organisations working in and Indigenous affairs more generally. After my internship, I was fortunate enough to be offered work at Myuma Pty Ltd, which is part of the Myuma Group and located at the same work camp as DAC.

UQA: You mentioned that a highlight was working with so many different people inside and outside the organisation – how has this experience helped you in your career and studies?

PH: The Myuma Group workforce is comprised of approximately 70% Indigenous Australians. It is rare to work in such a culturally rich and diverse workplace. Certainly, the Myuma Group’s unique cultural environment sets it apart from other organisations. One of the rewards of working in such a melting pot of cultures and professional backgrounds is that I am constantly learning. I originally wanted to work in a museum because its pedagogical environment is based around lifetime knowledge and learning. To work alongside multiplicities of Indigenous Australians who are descendants of different cultural groups throughout Australia, and to work for Managing-Director Colin Saltmere, descendant of the Indjalandji-Dhidhanu group, is an opportunity that I couldn’t find elsewhere. Stakeholders, government representatives and organisations that work alongside the Myuma Group are constantly visiting the Dugalunji Camp, so there is always an opportunity to liaise with game changers who are working towards socially advancing the lives of Indigenous Australians. An experience like this is reflexive and challenges preconceived notions about Australia’s cultural and socio-political landscape.

UQA: What are you planning now and where do you hope your studies will take you?

PH: Before I came to DAC, I completed a curatorial internship at the Queensland Museum alongside Tracy Ryan and Dr Shawn Rowlands. It was here I learned about Dr Walter Roth, a nineteenth-century ethnologist who collected Indigenous Australian artefacts from North Queensland. My studies have actually taken me to North Queensland where I am able to work closely with Indigenous Australians and witness the rugged terrain where Roth spent his time collecting. Currently, I am enrolled in a Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Studies and Anthropology and I am working as Executive Assistant to Colin Saltmere. I hope that my studies continue to allow me the opportunity to work within the Australian cultural sector within Museums, Cultural Heritage and/or Indigenous Affairs. Later down the track I would like to complete a PhD exploring cultural politics and museums in Australia.

Applications for the summer 2014/15 round of Aurora will open from 4 through 29 August. For more information, visit www.auroraproject.com.au

Image: Portia (in blue) with the 2014 prevocational trainees.

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