Sophie McLeod

An Internship Experience
Sophie McLeod

The name William Barak didn’t mean anything to me before I started my internship at the Public Records Office of Victoria. I have since learned that William Barak was a leading Wurundjeri man who spent his life working towards reconciliation and greater Aboriginal rights in the early Victorian colony. In 2015, his face was unveiled on a new 32-floor apartment building on Swanston Street that can be seen on the city skyline gazing down towards the Yarra. The story of William Barak is an example of just one of the many things that I learned during my internship unit at Monash.

Since early on in my degree I was keen to do an internship unit because I believe that they provide an invaluable insight into a working environment. So, when I heard about this internship through Monash it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I decided to undertake my internship in the winter semester, which allowed me to focus on my work without any distractions from other competing subjects.

My role at the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV) was within the Koorie Records Unit. My project involved looking through the archives within PROV’s collection to create a research guide for their website. My research guide was based on the petitions written by Aboriginal Victorians, including Barak, from 1860 – 1940.

Whilst the bulk of my work was individual research, I was also working closely with my supervisor and another intern student from Monash who was also developing a research guide. The idea to incorporate research guides into their website was a new innovation for PROV so both of us had great input into how the final product would look. We were also working within a larger education team who provided valuable insights and recommendations for our work.

1917-petitionThe most rewarding aspect of my internship was creating a resource that would be available to the wider public as well as the organisation. My final guide featured 54 petitions from Aboriginal Victorians across the state.

The petitions are very important documents because they are some of the earliest records of resistance and activism within the Aboriginal community and constitute an important part of our national history.

The work I did during my internship complemented my Arts degree in which I have a major in Indigenous Studies. I had the chance to work with primary sources and hone my research skills that I have put to good use over the last year while writing my Honours thesis. It also gave me the opportunity to see what the role of a researcher working with archives involves.

I would recommend all arts students to complete an internship subject within their degree. I think an internship is similar to the experience of studying abroad in that you get ‘real life’ experience that contributes towards your degree and assists you to find what type of work and workplace you are looking for.

My advice to future interns is to find an internship that you are passionate about. I was more engaged during my own internship and had more opportunities during the experience (including attending a conference) because I was deeply interested in the content and the work I was doing.

Image source:
1917 Petition, Public Records Office Victoria, VPRS 1694, Unit 3, Bundle 1917 Warrnambool, p. 19.