During her McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship at Regional Alliance West (RAW) Lara Lindegger researched, developed and implemented a legal health check tool catering specifically for the Mid-West, Murchison and Gascoyne regions’ communities.
The University of Western Australia third year Juris Doctor student completed her 100-hour internship in Geraldton with the not-for-profit organisation that offers free services, including access to information, advice and support, to people experiencing difficulty across a large section of rural WA.
“The purpose of this tool is to enable community workers throughout the Mid-West, Murchison and Gascoyne regions of WA to identify and prioritise legal need in their community and to direct vulnerable community members to RAW,” said Ms Lindegger.
Ms Lindegger says she was struck by the difficulties facing many people in rural WA.
“The most challenging element of my internship was witnessing disadvantage day in and day out. This internship really made me reflect on my privilege and has prompted me to consider more ways in which I can serve my community,” she said. “This may sound clichéd, but knowing that the work I was doing may genuinely make a difference was the best motivator there could be.”
The experience also broadened the Mindarie resident’s view of the legal profession.
“This internship has reignited my interest in social justice and all of the reasons I chose to study law in the first place. It also opened my eyes to the impact a single person can make,” said Ms Lindegger. “I was constantly amazed by the quality and quantity of work that RAW employees complete and the subsequent impact for the client.”
Principal solicitor at RAW, Alison Muller, described Ms Lindegger as “wonderful”, saying the tool she created would assist the organisation “by enhancing understanding of who we are and what we do by other services and the public, and streamline referrals to us”.
“Lara grasped the project brief, was able to be flexible as it changed slightly during development and to incorporate feedback and she delivered within time,” said Ms Muller. “We've been planning this tool for a few years now but did not have the time to work on it without the internship.”
Ms Lindegger says she would “absolutely recommend” a McCusker Centre internship to all students.
“Not only is it an engaging unit, but the opportunity to contribute directly to your community using skills acquired throughout your degree is invaluable. The McCusker Centre are extremely supportive and this has undoubtedly been my best university experience,” she said.
More than 1,400 students have now undertaken their internship with the McCusker Centre for Citizenship contributing more than 155,000 hours in service to the community.
Director Michelle Scott said the overwhelming number of applications from students to participate in the internship program was a sign that young people were increasingly seeking opportunities to engage with and give back to their communities.
“It is clear UWA students have a great appetite for internships with a social purpose,” Ms Scott said.