Social Justice Internship : Current Students : The University of Western Australia

Current Students

Social Justice Internship

Further Information

Penny Carruthers

The Social Justice Internship provides an opportunity for students to gain practical legal experience and provide vital services to disadvantaged members of the community.

It involves student placements in selected law firms, government departments and non-government and community organisations offering legal advice and representation to special interest groups.

nullWhy choose the Social Justice Internship? 

Elizabeth O’Shea, Senior Associate at Maurice Blackburn (Melbourne) speaks about how her commitment to social justice is reflected in her legal practice. In 2015, Ms O’Shea, supervised UWA intern, Elyanne Palmer.

Elizabeth O'Shea is responsible for Maurice Blackburn's national social justice practice. Based in Melbourne, Lizzie works on cases that address issues of community concern that are in the public interest. She provides access to justice for community groups that are fighting battles which have an impact beyond their own individual case, and people who would otherwise be unable to afford legal representation, such as asylum seekers and refugees, workers who have been underpaid, and people who have been unfairly targeted by national security legislation.
nullLizzie has been practising as a lawyer for six years and has local and international experience in employment and industrial relations, as well as in a wide array of court jurisdictions, from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal up to the High Court of Australia. Major national cases she is currently working on include the freedom of women to access fertility services free from harassment, and stopping a nuclear waste dump being built on land at Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory without adequate consultation with traditional owners.
Lizzie has been involved in numerous successful cases at Maurice Blackburn, including challenging the Australian Taxation Office’s decision to deny Aid/Watch its charitable status, winning the right for people to be allowed to protest against the development of a McDonald’s restaurant in the Victorian town of Tecoma, and having an application to introduce more pokie machines into the Victorian town of Castlemaine thrown out of VCAT.
Lizzie’s international legal experience includes working at the International Labour Organisation in Geneva monitoring gender and racial equality labour standards convention compliance, as well as a voluntary internship in the USA where she worked with indigent prisoners on death row. These international experiences have cemented Lizzie’s passion for righting injustices and addressing issues that are of a broad community concern.


Student Experiences

Legal AidMadison Orr interned with the Domestic Violence Unit at Legal Aid WA under the supervision of Michael Hovane. Indeed, Legal Aid WA supported the Legal internship Program by providing 4 student placements (three in Perth and one in Geraldton).
"During my time with the Domestic Violence Unit (DVLU) at Legal Aid I gained a wealth of knowledge and experience. I was given the opportunity to attend hearings, observe client interviews, undertake research, and was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to consult with a client. The majority of my time with the DVLU saw me observing and assisting the Duty Lawyer at the Magistrates Court. I found this work interesting and diverse because no two days or two clients were the same. The practical experience I have gained in undertaking the internship is invaluable. I recall my very first day with the DVLU where I thought to myself, I have learnt more in the eight hours I have just worked than I have learnt in two years at law school. Given another opportunity like this, I would not hesitate to take it. Real life exposure to life in legal practice has increased my desire and my drive to work in the legal profession."

ShelterWAJD student, Tom Vanderveen interned with ShelterWA. ShelterWA is the peak housing body for affordable housing and homelessness in Western Australia. During the internship, Tom completed a research project titled: Leveraging the innovative use of land for social and affordable housing. Tom’s paper considered legal issues impacting on a range of potential solutions for the lack of affordable housing problem including the introduction of community land trusts and land rental schemes. Tom, with ShelterWA Executive Officer, Chantal Roberts, presented the findings at the National Affordable Housing Summit in February, 2015. The paper is available on the ShelterWA website:

"I think the legal internship unit provides a fantastic opportunity to apply the predominantly theoretical legal knowledge and skills acquired in the first semesters of the JD. The Shelter WA staff were very welcoming, helpful and knowledgeable and during my placement I felt part of the team. Through the internship, I have gained a deeper understanding of the significant obstacles and legal issues that too many individuals and families in WA face in finding permanent accommodation and I have been able to assist in supplying potential alternative solutions. The internship has been enriching from a personal, scholarly and career perspective and I would highly recommend it to JD students."