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Kalgoorlie internship helps Erin seek justice for Aboriginal community

10 November, 2021

UWA Law student Erin Spellacy has supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members in Kalgoorlie to seek justice through a McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship.

Erin, who is in the final year of her Juris Doctor, volunteered with Aboriginal Legal Service WA (ALSWA) earlier this year and was struck by the strong social impact of the work being done by the organisation.

Eager to gain further legal experience with ALSWA, Erin was successful in gaining a competitive intensive winter internship through UWA’s McCusker Centre for Citizenship, which saw her travel to Kalgoorlie for three weeks.

Erin contributed to a wide range of work for ALSWA, including intensive legal research, supporting ALSWA’s lawyers and participating in NAIDOC Week celebrations and events.

Erin, who has a keen interest in criminal law, says the most rewarding element was gaining real-life experience in the courtroom, appearing as a friend of the court in the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court.

ALSWA Managing Lawyer and internship supervisor, Leneva Polmear, said “Erin approached every task she was assigned with great enthusiasm. [She] assisted our lawyers and court staff across many areas, from writing submissions to downgrade and discontinue charges to researching topics.”

Erin’s says her time in Kalgoorlie was challenging but “eye-opening”, leading her to reflect on and appreciate the opportunities, education and people she has been exposed to throughout her studies.

“There’s a real difference between learning about societal disadvantage and injustice at university and seeing it firsthand,” said Erin.

“My experience opened my eyes to some serious shortcoming of our legal system when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, it has also allowed me to be mindful and more aware of these shortcomings in my future practice,” she notes.

In addition to gaining valuable career skills and a strong professional network of lawyers across WA, the internship has strengthened Erin’s desire to pursue a legal career with social justice at the core.

“Without a doubt I would recommend a McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship to other students,” said Erin.

“Other law students should apply for McCusker internship to broaden their perspective on where our law degrees can take us. There are [so many] pathways including the social justice space,” she said.