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Thinking outside the box helps UWA student continue with her internship during pandemic

5 May, 2020

Exploring the State Cabinet Records from 1989 – 10 years before she was born – has been a fascinating exercise for McCusker Centre for Citizenship intern Michelle Lam.

The University of WA (UWA) Law and Society student is currently completing her 100-hour community service internship with the State Records Office of Western Australia from home.

The McCusker Centre for Citizenship, together with its partner organisations, has worked collaboratively to ensure all current Semester 1 interns could continue their internships safely from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 70 UWA students are expected to complete their 100-hour internships remotely this month, contributing more than 7000 hours in service to the community.   

Floreat resident Ms Lam’s internship project was to create a guide to the 1989 State Cabinet records – which have been restricted from public access for 30 years.

This involved researching the important events of 1989 and reviewing the records themselves.

“The element I'm enjoying the most of my internship is the ability to look at how issues that are prominent today have previously been on the government's agenda,” she shared.

“It is incredibly interesting to see how they were addressed by Cabinet and how their responses have developed over time.”

Completing an internship from home has not been without its challenges for the 21-year-old. 

“Since the original records are unique and have been confidential until very recently, I wasn't allowed to take them out of the State Records Office,” Ms Lam explained.

Ms Lam said the State Records Office of WA (SRO) and her internship supervisor, Archives Acting Director Gerard Foley, had been “extremely supportive” during the transition.

“The SRO were extremely dedicated to finding an alternative way for me to complete the internship without access to the original paper records, and have been responsive to my questions,” Ms Lam said.

Mr Foley said the unexpected arrival of the pandemic “initially created some uncertainty with this intern project”.

“With a little bit of creative thinking and the help of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, which provided a copy of their index to the 1989 State Cabinet records, Michelle has been able to create a draft of the guide remotely,” he said.

“It helped that Michelle is motivated and adaptable, so the internship experience for the SRO at this unprecedented time has ended up being excellent.”