Mystic Margarine’s Horoscopes

Is Mystic Marge (‘Margarine’ to you, thank-you very much) a myth? A legend? Even a law student? Who can say. But what we know for sure is that Mystic Marge can read the stars. With total accuracy.

A Summer with Aurora

By Phillip Matthews

During the summer before my final year of law school, I had the great fortune of undertaking an Aurora internship with the North Queensland Land Council (NQLC), a Native Title Representative Body (NTRB). I had applied for the internship because I wanted to be involved in the important work that NTRBs perform, and because I thought that an Aurora internship would offer an experience that I could not have elsewhere. What I experienced at the NQLC far exceeded my expectations.

I was placed in the NQLC’s Cairns office in the Future Acts, Mining and Exploration (FAME) Unit under the supervision of Julia (Jules) Taylor, a Senior Legal Officer for the Council. I felt very fortunate to have been placed in the FAME Unit, as it enabled me to see that there is more to the native title sector than the making of determinations for Traditional Owner groups (although this is very interesting all on its own).

As I sat in meetings with various representatives from Traditional Owner groups and Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs), I was able to observe the diverse range of issues that these groups face in exercising their rights in relation to their determined lands. In turn, I realised the diverse range of skills and knowledge that the field requires native title lawyers to develop. From debt collecting, forensic accounting and legal research, to negotiating with stakeholders such as miners, renewable energy developers, local councils, government agencies and religious organisations, the native title sector has it all.

Aboriginal Flag

Admittedly, I was very nervous before beginning my internship. I did not know what sort of tasks I would be performing or what kind of environment to expect. I quickly realised that I need not have worried about either. My supervisor spent almost half of my first day at the NQLC introducing me to everyone in the office and detailing their respective roles, giving me a better idea of the work undertaken by the Land Council and the warm atmosphere therein. For my second day I was whisked away for an educational outing with the NQLC’s erudite Mr Danny O’Shane, a Western Yalanji man with an intimate knowledge of the Cairns region, who was kind enough to spend the day imparting some of this insight to me. It was amazing to see the region I grew up in from a new perspective and I found that this was one of the most rewarding aspects of the internship.

Although I was invited to go on many wonderful excursions to beautiful locations – such as the Atherton Tablelands – for client meetings (which are always a great learning experience), I was also able to perform a lot of important work in the office. One of the first tasks I undertook was looking through the records of a PBC and organising the information therein so that it would be compliant with the relevant legislation. During this process, I accidentally stumbled across financial records needed to finalise some long outstanding accounting issues. Good financial management is a top priority for a PBC, given how vital external funding is to many of these corporations. Finding the records needed to do this at the beginning of my internship demonstrated how something as simple as finding some papers in a box can constitute a significant victory.

Another of my tasks was to prepare plain English summaries of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement required to gain consent from Traditional Owners for the Agreement. This process taught me about the importance of being able to draft in a style that is comprehensible to people with no legal training but which also accurately reflects the law. The ability to explain legal concepts in this way is, of course, an essential skill in all areas of the law.

Additionally, I was given the opportunity to conduct research into how deeds of company arrangement affect debts payable to PBCs by companies that have agreed with the State to operate under Native Title Protection Conditions. I was unable to find any previous research or cases that answered this question directly, so it was a great experience to examine such a unique legal scenario. Questions such as these reflect native title’s uniqueness as an area of the law, showing how it lends itself to inquisitive minds who enjoy a variety of challenges.

I was also very lucky to attend two directors’ board meetings for a PBC. At the first, near the beginning of my internship, I was tasked with taking minutes for the meeting. Although I was not very familiar with what was being discussed, I received positive feedback on the minutes from the directors themselves, which was a nice little confidence boost. At the next board meeting, my supervisor had lost her voice and I was able to act in her stead after receiving a written brief in the morning, with the occasional further written note from her. The two meetings, at opposite ends of my internship, reflected the knowledge I had built up over my six weeks at the NQLC, not only in the law but also in client interactions and particular matters facing PBCs.

All in all, I had an amazing experience and I am extremely grateful that the Aurora Internship Program enabled me to have it. Even when performing administrative tasks such as printing copies of agreements and filling boxes with outdated mining and exploration leases, the vibrant workplace atmosphere and the knowledge that I was doing meaningful work made it all a breeze. Not only was my internship highly enjoyable and fulfilling, but I was also happy in the knowledge that I was improving essential legal skills such as drafting, research, file management, and auditing. I would strongly recommend an Aurora internship to anyone who has an interest in the native title sector or Indigenous affairs more broadly, two areas set to grow in prominence as Australia works increasingly toward reconciliation.  I would also recommend Aurora to anyone who is unsure of which direction to take and who is keen to try something different from any other internship program in the country.



Applications for the winter 2018 round are open until 30 March 2018.

Applications for the summer 2018/19 round are open from 9 to 31 August 2018

Find out more at




A Longer Walk to Freedom

By Wesley Mollentze

Following the statement by the Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, many have questioned his motivations in instructing his office to investigate helping at-risk white South African farmers. Bill Shorten quickly (and naively) deemed this act ‘racist’. However, if one takes a quick look at the facts, the superficially controversial move becomes a rather logical humanitarian response.

Apartheid ended nearly a quarter of a century ago, bringing much needed democracy to South Africa. Since 1994, poverty, crime and corruption have become rampant with no indication of decreasing. The ruling African National Congress have failed to properly manage and improve the lives of disadvantaged citizens. Attempts to rectify systematic inequalities from the Apartheid era have resulted in a targeted attack on the white Afrikaner minority who make up 8.1% of the 56 million South African population. The most unusual attempts include affirmative action that have forced companies to hire a workforce which must comprise of 92% black people, sometimes to the detriment of well-qualified candidates who are not encompassed by this category. White people are furthermore ineligible to receive government grants with some reports stating that white individuals have been turned away from hospitals and schools due to their ethnicity, an act which would have Nelson Mandela turning in his grave. When Archbishop Desmond Tutu states that the ANC is worse than the Apartheid government, you know that there is a big problem.

Protester holding a placard saying 'kill white.'

The latest move by the South African Parliament made headlines around the world, when the Marxist leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema, put forward a successful motion to expropriate white owned land without compensation: Taking land away from legal land owners and redistributing It to black people. The major South African banks – specifically Dr Langa Simela and Dr Tsokolo Nchocho from ABSA and the Land Bank respectively – warned that this move would destabilise the economy as many of the debts owed on this land, which are in the billions of dollars, are owed to the World Bank, African Development Bank and several others.

Thabo Mokwena from the ANC’s executive attempted to calm the foreign media by stating that the land expropriation act will follow the law, and that if a law does not allow the government to take someone’s land legally, the government would just ‘change the law’ so that the act of theft becomes legal. He further stated that South Africa is one of the safest countries in the world in illogical defiance of the 2016/17 police crime statistics which showed 19,000 – 28,000 murders, 3,204 police crimes, 49,660 sexual offences (of which 39,828 were rapes) seen each year and so forth. The South African Government is trying their best to be considered a beacon of democracy by spewing propaganda, much like the North Korean regime has been doing for years.

Simon Roche, a prominent ANC activist who fought for Mandela during the Apartheid years, started a civil defence group called the ‘Suidlanders’ which is currently the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Roche combined data from AfriForum and several human rights observers to paint a bleak picture for the Afrikaner in South Africa: White farmers are twice as likely to die than a police officer in South Africa. That is, men who work the land to produce crops are twice as likely to die a violent death than a man who fights crime every day. It was further concluded that an Afrikaner is 1200% more likely to die than a black man in the United States. The former President, Jacob Zuma, called for supporters to ‘shoot the Boer’, while Julius Malema explained that he is not calling for the murder of whites just yet.  The mainstream media have still chosen to ignore the plight of this Southern African minority.

Looking at the brutality of the attacks on Afrikaners, it is clear than they are motivated by hate, the likes of which have only been observed during brutal ethnic cleansing such as the 1994 Rwandan – and more recent Sudanese – genocide. Men are forced to watch as their wives and young daughters are raped and then dragged behind a vehicle for kilometres. Children are boiled alive while parents are made to watch (see the murder of Amaro Viana). It is not hard to imagine why 200,000 South Africans have emigrated to Australia.

The RSA Government has barely acted or commented on these attacks which have increased in both frequency and brutality. Members of Parliament have encouraged these attacks by dehumanising white people, calling them thieves while blaming them for all shortcomings of the ANC Government. In classic criminological theories, hate crimes are placed under ‘general strain theory’, these are pressures or strains placed on a group or individual when they cannot attain a certain goal via systematic or cultural circumstances. The South African Government and the ruling party have for years shifted the blame for their bad governance to the white minority while in the background officials have been filling their coffers with taxpayer money, grabbing all they can while the average South African suffers. This successfully transferred blame has caused the severely impoverished to take their frustrations to the white Afrikaners.

While the world touts their love for refugees and displaced peoples, because of their skin colour, the white minority of South Africa has been forgotten.




Reselling Afghanistan

By Anonymous

It’s time to resell, not withdraw, from the war in Afghanistan.

The United States and its NATO partners have been in Afghanistan for some 17 years. They originally fought with the Northern Alliance to liberate the country from Taliban rule as part of the War on Terror. Soon afterwards, they embarked on the gruelling and disappointing process of state making.

Since 2001, the patchwork of tribes, religions and ethnicities in Afghanistan itself has once again intertwined with the players at the fringes of the nation: Pakistan, and to a lesser extent, Russia, flirt with the Taliban; Iran eyes off potential partners; and India is broadening its support for the government in Kabul.

The Belt and Road Initiative — a Chinese Initiative which seeks to connect the two ends of Eurasia through the construction of regional infrastructure projects such as Gwandar port — has also rolled out across Central Asia. China has an especially heavy presence in Pakistan — a long time meddler in Afghan politics — by virtue of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a slew of infrastructure projects sponsored by Chinese firms in Pakistan.

Afghanistan has gained political and economic significance in the region since the United States invaded in 2001. However, US policymakers still remain narrowly focused on defeating the Taliban and forging another peace process without consideration of other regional stakeholders. Furthermore, the US does so with the knowledge that their current troop presence is insufficient to achieve such a goal.

Map of Afghanistan.

Strangely, the most dangerous consequence of the ‘War in Afghanistan’ has not been the waste of money and resources or the loss of political will to undertake Western-style nation building in far flung places.  It has instead been the way in which the United States has shorn Afghanistan of its regional identity and characterised the country as a military problem which could, and still can, be solved via the surge of troops and resources.

The US presence in Afghanistan is not, and never will be, enough to defeat the Taliban or those entities that wish to destroy what little is left after 17 years of US and NATO occupation. However, it is enough to prevent the central government from entirely collapsing; prevent regional players from filling a power vacuum left by the United States; and to project US hard power in a region afflicted by instability, state failure, but which has a bounty of economic opportunity.  

Given the region is awash with investment but lacks definitive security commitments to secure these investments the United States could use its existing military resources stationed in Afghanistan to take on a role in Central Asia that it has played globally over the last century—as a guarantor of security and stability in the absence of other nations with the will or the resources to do so.

This role would complement the growing presence of China and other nations that support the Belt and Road Initiative, while staving off attempts by other states to muscle themselves into Afghanistan militarily. This is because while China and other regional players have poured billions of dollars into regional infrastructure projects, they have not bothered (nor do they have the ability) to provide the counter-terror, institutional, and military support to secure these investments. Hence the United States has an opportunity to resell its Afghan presence as a platform from which it can provide security and assistance to the region: A region that has binged itself on infrastructure development without the commensurate stability, security, and institutional fibre.

Reselling US presence in the region would provide a practical basis to positively engage with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has drawn the suspicion of many states because of the assumption that its projects will inevitably have geopolitical significance. It would put to bed those suspicions by reinserting US military presence in the region without threatening what China claims to be an economic project. It would also put those projects on a more secure footing and present a win-win for all regional stakeholders, the United States and China included.

To do so would require the United States to resell its Afghan mission and abandon its former ambition to build a democracy and liberate the entire country. To do otherwise would be disingenuous, and risk losing public support for something that is in the national interest.

One cannot deny that 15 years of US occupation, the growth of China, India and other regional players and the roll out of the BRI, has created a reality of its own. In this context, it is not necessarily in the Trump administration’s interest to give up its presence in Afghanistan and forsake its role in a region that offers immense economic opportunity.

By staying, the United States will have avoided making the decision to withdraw, a decision which, ironically, would share the same narrow mindedness that got the United States in Afghanistan in the first place.