Run since its inception by Dr Janice Dudley, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, the program has seen roughly 200 students benefit from placements within WA Parliament and the WA Public Service.
“The concept initially came from Parliament and has evolved over time,” Dr Dudley said.
“The program is time-intensive, but students wax lyrical about what they take from the experience, and the organisations involved receive real value in what is produced.”
The internships see students spend a full semester working on a substantial research project chosen by their host organisation. Reflecting the program’s diverse reach, topics have ranged from the effects of peak oil on government revenue to investigating self harm and youth suicide in remote Indigenous communities.
“Students work in a professional setting on a real-world issue, one that contributes to Western Australia. They model the role of a professional research officer and experience the complexity of policy development,” Dr Dudley said.
Dr Dudley said many interns have gone on to work in government, and in some cases, agencies have even created positions to keep them on. This level of excellence was recognised with an Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) award in 2009 for ‘excellence in enhancing student learning’.
Former program participant Jamal Barnes said the program informed his decision to pursue a PhD.
“From a practical point of view, the internship program taught me how to be more disciplined in my research and how to better manage my time,” he said.
“Even more, it provided the opportunity to carry out research that was in the public interest, which was very rewarding and gave me a new appreciation for how research can contribute to solving problems and dealing with issues that are important for the wider community.”
The program’s value to Parliament and the Public Service was reflected by the Hon Paul Llewellyn MLC, who praised the work of intern Kristian Maley in 2008 Parliament.
“I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised at the insight that this fourth-year politics and international studies student had as a result of a six-month internship,” Mr Llewellyn said.
Dr Dudley said she was proud of the internship’s sterling reputation within the public sector and its personal rewards for students.
“The emphasis of the internship has always been on the learning and development of the students rather than simply producing ‘work-ready graduates’,” she said.