Aurora Internship Program bridging the gap

09 Aug 2021
Aurora Internship Program bridging the gap

The Aurora Internship Program has a rich history of giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students the opportunity to be immersed in health research and potentially find employment at Indigenous and non-Indigenous-sector organisations, including SAHMRI.

Now in its 15th year, the program has placed 3,000 interns and created more than 900 jobs. SAHMRI Research Assistant, Ashleigh Morrison is one of four interns to be placed with SAHMRI’s Aboriginal Health Equity Theme. She said the experience had a life changing impact on her when she joined the team in 2020.

“I found the internship really meaningful. They look at what your skills are and what you can do and scope out a program so you can actually make a useful contribution while you learn,” Ms Morrison said. 

With degrees in Arts and Medical Science Ashleigh had been working in program facilitation for government and private industry when she jumped at the chance to apply her skills to a new field.

“I hadn’t ever worked at a research institute and was really curious to find out how Aboriginal health research worked,” Ms Morrison said.

The program is open to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and graduates and offers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students $800 per week to complete a four to six-week internship. It also covers travel expenses and gives participants the option to work part time.

Those with backgrounds in law, social sciences, health science and social welfare are commonly embedded with organisations involved in native title, land rights, justice, policy and community development, health, social welfare and research. Placements are available in all major cities, as well as a range of regional and remote areas across Australia, providing much needed assistance to organisations while promoting career opportunities.

Ashleigh’s supervisor, Research Fellow, Adriana Parrella said she was such a good fit for the research unit that offering her on-going work at SAHMRI was an obvious decision.

“Ashleigh has been able to come in and seamlessly work through all the tasks we give her and collaborate really well with the rest of the team to get the job done,” Mrs Parrella said.

Ashleigh has now been working in her current role for the past year and is responsible for translating quantitative and qualitative interview data for projects relating to healthy ageing, contributing to painting a clearer picture of older Aboriginal peoples’ health in South Australia.

“Ashleigh’s done an incredible job translating available public health and Australian population census data into a form that’s user friendly and appropriate for Aboriginal communities and organisations such as community controlled health services for monitoring and service planning,” Dr. Parrella said.

In addition to job creation, Aurora internships at SAHMRI also open the door to further study opportunities.

Due to the connections she’s made, Ashleigh now has a much clearer idea of how to go about taking up a PhD in the future.

“If I decide to do a PhD, now I know people I can call to help make that happen. That’s exciting, because before the internship I had no idea where to begin,” Ms Morrison said.

Internship in-take typically opens in March and August each year, though the next round of dates are yet to be finalised due to COVID-19.

Anyone interested in taking on an internship is encouraged to contact for details.