10 Sep 2020

Intern Blog #3: “Getting my boots muddy”

Posted10 Sep 2020

Intern Blog #3: “Getting my boots muddy”

3 months as an intern at LEI has flown by, and the various tasks I’ve been involved with at LEI have certainly given me a chance to get my ‘boots muddy’, in relative ‘desk-based’ terms! August brought the high winds to the Illawarra, but we can see the signs of Spring. After successfully applying for a visa extension, I am to continue working at LEI for an additional month. Pleased to be staying in Australia and, feeling more settled here, I am excited to see what opportunities the next year will offer. This month outside of the office I have visited the Fo Guang Shan Nan Tien Temple, surfed with dolphins and have been getting more involved with locally-based community projects such as the Wollongong branch of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC).

Exploring Wollongong’s pagodas

In the office, I have again been busy with writing articles for the LEI website and newsletter, most recently publishing a piece on work done in Laos with the MRLG project. The article focuses on a tea production cooperative in North-West Laos, telling the story of a small business initiative which is developing sustainable livelihoods for the local ethnic communities. However, despite initial success COVID-19 restrictions for exports has put the future of the project in jeopardy and calls into question the lack of support for small businesses in Laos in the current economic climate.

With COVID-19, the office is starting to feel a slowdown in the workstream. With the reality of travel restrictions, LEI have turned their attention to supporting projects within Australia. Recently, I have been involved with a project which is offering technical assistance for the development of an Allodial land registration system for First Nations Australians. The system is an initiative from an Indigenous council, seeking to support the economic development of Australia’s First Nations. It is being designed to offer a sophisticated, publicly accessible online registry for Indigenous elder-approved land-use permits enabling better economic opportunities that would facilitate ‘closing the gap’ across Australia. I am currently working on an article focusing on this project, so watch this space!

I have been exploring LEI’s project history through updating experience sheets, short summaries of project descriptions and the services provided by LEI. Learning to succinctly describe the achievements and lessons learnt from past consultancy work has been beneficial for my report-style writing skills. Also, this month, I have been watching some webinars for various land administration and development projects. While the panels boast highly specialised experts and engagement with audience members via zoom meetings, often the discussions are compartmentalised. The major drawback of the online medium is that it does not always facilitate vibrant round-table discussions with momentum. Questions are typically directed to individual experts and answers relayed directly back to the host rather than as a catalyst for group discussion and input from all panellists conversing with each other. The topics are interesting, with a colourful mix of experts showcasing a deep illustration of their work, I can only imagine the difficulty that the new online format is presenting, compared with the more lively networking and familiarity that conferences and workshops have previously provided. While, I appear here a bit critical, I am truly appreciative to learn from other’s insights and acknowledge that communication is skill to be honed and practised.

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