Mikhaila Jacoby, Aurora Native Title Internship Program

Cairns is a gateway to the wondrous Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area. A place that boasts of a diversity of wondrous landscapes, glistening streams, lush green rainforests, strong cultural connections and an exquisite biodiversity of plant and animal species. This very bold and brilliant piece of paradise is all at once a complex and fragile environment which is inhabited by many rare and endangered plant and animal species. It is because of the outstanding universal values of the area that on 9 December 1988 the Wet Tropics of Queensland was formally recognised and listed as a World Heritage Area. The Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993 saw the establishment of the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) which today continues to fulfil Australia’s obligation, under the World Heritage Convention, in ensuring that the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area and all its values are well-presented, protected and rehabilitated.

2013 marked 25 years since the listing of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

Aboriginal cultural and spiritual values are inextricably linked with the values of the Wet Tropics. In 2012 the Rainforest Aboriginal cultural values of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area were recognised through National Heritage listing. WTMA works with Rainforest Aboriginal people, in a number of ways, for the management of traditional country in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The Aurora Project supports organisations that hold a focus in Indigenous affairs. This is the reason that the Aurora Native Title Internship Program offers a placement at this non-Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) host organisation. The internship placements support many organisations and provide a great opportunity for an undergraduate or a graduate to expand their expertise and gain valuable work experience.

Having recently graduated from James Cook University with my main areas of study being anthropology and environmental studies, I was in search of an internship placement that provided a focus on both Indigenous affiliations and environmental management. I was very pleased to be starting my internship at the WTMA in November 2013. Undertaking an Aurora internship with WTMA was wonderfully suited to my aspirations and through this experience I have been able to make connections between theory and practice.

At WTMA I was treated as a staff member and given a set of tasks, my own desk, internal contact number and email. I slotted in quite easily and before I knew it I was a part of the furniture. Everyone was really lovely and I felt welcomed since the very beginning. My main task for the duration of the internship was to work on the Yarrabah boardwalk project. WTMA’s focus for this project was to assist in the organising of the restoration of the existing boardwalk. WTMA offer support to facilitate Indigenous Tourism projects in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. My role, as project assistant was to research and conceptualise ideas for the restoration project and to gather a database of potential Indigenous Tourism industry support organisations, funding/grants and other useful resources. On several occasions I visited the Yarrabah boardwalk, which is located at the Arts and Museum precinct in Yarrabah. I organised site visits with various stakeholders of the project and industry professionals in order to undertake structural assessments of the boardwalk and to grasp an understanding of restoration costs through obtaining construction advice and quotes from various material suppliers. It feels good to know that I have contributed in some way to what will hopefully soon be a fantastic Indigenous tourism facility in Yarrabah. Through this project I grasped the valuable understanding in the functionality of partnerships with stakeholders and how negotiations are carried out within an organisation.

One of the highlights of my time with WTMA was when I helped organised and facilitate the December Wet Tropics Tour Guide Field School which was held on the Tropical Coast of Mission Beach and Tully. WTMA has been working with tourism operators, in particular Savannah Guides, along with tour guides of the Wet Tropics to create opportunities for knowledge sharing through workshops and networking. This in turn assists the tourism industry in “raising the bar” when it comes to visitor experiences in and around the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. At this particular guide school I assisted with administrational and logistical matters whilst also being fortunate enough to be offered participation in the workshops. The weekend consisted of presentations about the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, highlighting it’s specific universal values, tour guiding tips and tricks, customer service, bird watching and tropical fruit and wine tasting; just to name a few. We were also guided by Jirrbal Traditional Owners of the Tully region who operate Ingan Tours.

It was fabulous to see so many young Indigenous participants at the guide school wanting to get tourism up and running on their traditional country. After an amazing weekend of meeting a diverse range of industry personnel, I left with very useful contacts and an experience which gave me a greater understanding of the value and importance of not just nature based tourism, but Indigenous tourism as well; in representing and in protecting the cultural and ecological values of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

My internship at WTMA also included editing their annual ‘State of the Wet Tropics Report’, creating instructions for the navigation and use of the interactive WTMA vegetation mapping found on e-Atlas and editing images through the WTMA Digital Asset Library. I also assisted with contacting various Australian universities to inform them of the WTMA 2014 Student Research Grant Scheme offered to students wishing to undertake research in social, cultural and environmental areas of study reciprocally benefiting the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

The Aurora internship through WTMA provided a great diversity of valuable experiences for me. I am grateful to all the staff at WTMA and the Aurora Project for facilitating this wonderful and fulfilling internship experience.

I highly recommend the Aurora Native Title Internship Program to anyone interested in native title, social justice and Indigenous affairs. You can apply for an anthropology, legal or social science internship through the Aurora Project at www.auroraproject.com.au . For more information about the Wet Tropics Management Authority please visit www.wettropics.gov.au.

Mikhaila Jacoby
James Cook University Graduate


Mikhaila Jacoby, Aurora Native Title Internship Program

Published: 17th Mar 2014

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