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UWA student intern helps secure legal service funding for family and domestic violence victims

17 June, 2020

Thanks to McCusker Centre for Citizenship intern Christopher Simpson, Gosnells Community Legal Centre (GCLS) is one step closer to securing long-term funding to provide legal advice to Indigenous and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) victims of family and domestic violence.

The project, which aims to provide a legal service to women who the Armadale Health Service identify as being in need of protection, has been running for about one year.

GCLC Managing Lawyer Patrick Mungar said University of WA Juris Doctor student and Swanbourne resident Mr Simpson produced an interim evaluation of the project, which assisted the Centre to apply for long-term funding.

“If funding can be assured, our Centre will be able to continue our services to very vulnerable groups who have great difficulty in approaching our centre directly to seek assistance for protection for a variety of cultural factors,” Mr Mungar said.

When social distancing restrictions were introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Mr Simpson was still able to continue his internship working safely from home. 

“Fortunately, most of my tasks – such as interviewing, researching, and liaising with GCLC and hospital staff – could be done remotely by phone or email,” the 23-year-old explained. 

“GCLC were strongly supportive of the working from home arrangements and were available for me to ask questions at all times, both by phone and email.”

The McCusker Centre for Citizenship recently received almost double the expected number of student applications for its upcoming winter (June-July) round of internships. 

Director Michelle Scott said the “overwhelming” number of applications 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.

“They have seen the very practical way that their peers contributed, even during the COVID-19 pandemic and want to do the same.”

Mr Simpson said he most enjoyed the “independence and responsibility” that GCLC afforded him during his 100-hour community service internship.

“I was required to do tasks that were more demanding than those I have previously completed in my work life and definitely more so than I had expected prior to the internship,” he said.

“I felt a duty to work hard and do the best job I could because I strongly believe in the importance of the project.”