Celebrating our volunteers for Volunteer Week 2022 - Barwon Community Legal Service
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Celebrating our volunteers for Volunteer Week 2022

We love our student and lawyer volunteers and regularly rely on them to increase the impact we have in community. Their valuable expertise and the increased capacity they  bring to our service cannot be overstated – we quite simply could not achieve as much as we do without them and appreciate their dedication to helping those most in need.

For Volunteer Week this year, our volunteer Elena Mitchell shares her insights on what it was like to volunteer at BCLS as part of her community development internship!

“The best part of this internship is that I’ve had the opportunity to make a real contribution. From the first day, I was encouraged to jump right in and get involved. I wasn’t just observing or filing documents, as is often the case with short term internships. I was trusted to contribute with my skills in writing and research analysis. I was frequently asked for my opinion, which made me feel like a valued member of the team. Of course, I was supported the whole way, and given many suggestions about how to improve, but feedback was always given after I’d had the chance to try first.”

Elena Mitchell, BCLS Community Development Intern

I reached out to the Barwon Community Legal Service (BCLS) as part of an internship subject with my Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in criminology. I was quickly connected with the right people and was offered a community development internship. I appreciate how BCLS could design the internship around my university requirements, they were exceptionally accommodating!

Throughout the internship I’ve worked closely with the Community Development Manager on the final stages of their first research report Real Life Research in Partnership – Understanding Civil Law Needs of Older People and Building Research Capacity in Community Legal Centres. I’ve worked on proof-reading the report, writing a draft of the summary report and putting together simple infographics to help explain the data

Another aspect of the internship which I appreciated is that the BCLS team has worked with Criminology students before. Because of this I was given highly relevant tasks and could make use of the skills I have developed through my degree. I was also able to work with topics which I am particularly interested in, for example elder abuse prevention and youth education programs about consent. Throughout the internship I could tell that BCLS was trying to make the experience as interesting and informative as possible for me.

This internship has helped me to understand what a role in community development can involve. I now know what daily tasks are involved in the role, and can recognise some of the challenges attached to a career in the CLC space. It’s given me a lot to think about in relation to my own career. I can now start to imagine where my own passions and skills would fit best in the not-for-profit sector.

Finally, this internship has given me a deep appreciation for BCLS and the significant role they play in the community. Even as a criminology student, I had very little understanding of what CLCs do. I genuinely admire the whole team at BCLS, they are all doing everything they can to improve access to justice for vulnerable members of their community. Studying social justice policy is one thing, but seeing people implement it is another. Despite sever funding limitations, BCLS has a huge impact on its community.

I would recommend an internship at BCLS for any student wanting a hands-on experience and as a great opportunity to learn about the work of CLCs.

To contact us about volunteering with BCLS please email bcls@barwoncls.org.au 

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