The University of Western Australia’s unique McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship program has reached a major milestone providing more than 2,000 students the opportunity to contribute over 200,000 hours’ to make a real impact in the community.
The McCusker Centre for Citizenship (the Centre) was first established at UWA in 2015 with a generous endowment from the McCusker Charitable Foundation and has since forged partnerships with over 400 not-for-profit and government organisations and industry, providing UWA students with a high-quality internship program that allows them to work on projects of direct benefit to the community.
“In establishing the Centre, we wanted students who may not be aware of some of the challenges in our own community to gain a greater understanding and also to learn about how they can contribute to the community,” said Foundation Director and Chairman and former WA Governor, The Honourable Malcolm McCusker AC CVO QC.
“The Centre aligns perfectly with UWA’s founding and ongoing guiding purpose to advance the prosperity and welfare of the people in our community,” said Mr McCusker.
Feedback on the internship program is extremely positive. Evaluations shows 97 per cent of student interns and partners would recommend the program to their peers.
“The Centre has been a gratifying and remarkable success,” said Mr McCusker, “It has been a delight for me and my fellow Advisory Committee members to learn from young students, from across all areas of study, of the beneficial impact that their internship experiences have had on their sense of social purpose and education for life.”
Centre Director, Michelle Scott, said the internship program has remained strongly grounded in social justice and developing a strong sense of civic responsibility.
“The ongoing success of the program reflects that UWA students have a great desire to tackle social injustice and engage with their communities. The Centre plays a vital role in providing students with meaningful opportunities to create practical change,” said Ms Scott.
The Centre’s programs have grown beyond the internship program, with students now offered additional opportunities to pursue their active citizenship including global opportunities in India, Nepal and the USA, and a mentoring program with senior leaders.
Final-year Law student Natalie Fretton has been a strong advocate for the McCusker Centre for Citizenship since she first undertook an internship early in her studies, having subsequently completed through the Centre a global fellowship and industry mentorship, as well as heading up the Centre’s Student Advisory Committee.
“The values of the McCusker Centre resonate deeply with me and have been the main motivator for my continued involvement with the Centre. I truly believe that systemic change begins with fostering mindsets of empathy and compassion,” said Natalie, who hopes to pursue a legal career grounded in social justice.
Student Lucas Roosendaal, who interned with Legal Aid WA’s NDIS team, said his internship was one of the “most rewarding experiences” of his time at UWA.
“Engagement with social issues is critical for any discipline. The McCusker Centre is unique – nothing like it exists in any other university. These internships allow students to create tangible benefit for the community, while putting classroom learning into practice,” said Lucas.
With strategic partnerships forged across the WA Public Sector Commission, WA local government bodies, Telethon Kids Institute, the Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia, Regional Development Commissions and more, the McCusker Centre for Citizenship is set to continue growing its community impact.
“We hope our program continues to inspire students and the UWA community, and the broader Western Australian community to become active, life-long contributors to our local, regional and global communities – and in the process, encourage and support others to do likewise,” said Ms Scott.
Image: Governor Chris Dawson and Commissioner June Oscar AO with His Honour Judge Denis Reynolds (Director, McCusker Charitable Foundation), Michelle Scott (Director, McCusker Centre for Citizenship UWA) and McCusker Centre for Citizenship UWA students and alumni at the 2022 Sir Wallace Kyle Oration.