In January 2014, I travelled to Cairns to undertake an internship as part of the Aurora Native Title Internship Program at the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA). I had just completed my Master of Environmental Management degree at Macquarie University and looked forward to being in the professional environment again. I am passionate about protection of nature and sustainable use of natural resources, so my 6 weeks placement at WTMA was a perfect fit.
While an Aurora Internship is not necessarily about the intern but rather about meeting the needs of the host organisation, working side by side with people whose values and attitudes towards the environment were so similar to mine was a wonderful and inspiring experience.
WTMA strives to ensure that the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, which has been listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as the second most irreplaceable protected area on Earth, is managed according to its international status. Much of their work is about facilitating and supporting partnerships among local stakeholders and much effort goes into forging strong productive relationships with local Indigenous communities. Working in partnership allows all parties involved to explore opportunities of sustainable use of the area that otherwise might not have been possible.
Working on different projects during my internship, I have been reminded that protection and conservation of the environment is not the only goal we should have in mind - Wet Tropics area has traditionally been home to many generations of people and local communities who should be able to continue sustaining themselves under the changed conditions.
Moreover, protection of the natural environment and promotion of its intrinsic value are not likely to be very effective without simultaneous provision of opportunities for locals and visitors to understand this unique corner of the Earth, get a chance to know it and fall in love with it. It is in our nature to care about what we have seen and what has become a part of our unique experience.
During my time at WTMA I had a chance to work on the projects aimed to support local Indigenous communities and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal individuals who aspire to work in the space of small scale sustainable tourism; to help visitors discover less travelled routes, hidden gems and the incredible diversity of the Wet Tropics; and have a truly authentic experience of the Indigenous culture.
My day-to-day tasks were diverse and interesting, and it was rewarding to see projects progressing and coming together. Among the highlights of my time at WTMA were the field trips which provided a great learning opportunity but also a chance to see the breathtaking nature of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. People I worked with at WTMA were extremely welcoming and friendly and went out of their way to make my time with them interesting and memorable.
From the time I was offered the placement, I also felt strong support of the Aurora Placements team in all matters - they are there for the interns the entire time and you will never be left to deal with any potential problems alone.
My internship proved to be an extraordinary vantage point from which I could explore and learn about challenges facing Wet Tropics area in today’s world, such as environmental protection versus economic development, management of the protected area and working together with Traditional owners to achieve tangible benefits for local communities. I got some invaluable hands-on experience, made new connections and great memories.
I strongly recommend exploring diverse opportunities the Aurora Internship Program offers to students and graduates and submitting your application. Internships are available during winter and summer university breaks in different parts of Australia. Visit the Aurora Project website www.auroraproject.com.au for more details and apply on-line.