An update on Work Integrated Learning
By Alison Rogers, EcoNetwork committee member.
Earlier this year based on requests from EcoNetwork affiliates, I presented a range of projects to students enrolled in the School of Environmental Science and Development Studies at the University of Newcastle. EcoNetwork was hoping that student support may have been forthcoming as all students enrolled in these subjects are required to gain real on-the-job experience as part of the university’s Work Integrated Learning Program (WIL).
Unfortunately, although quite a few students expressed interest in the projects offered and indicated that they would have relished the opportunity, we were unable to attract any students to sign up for a formal project. As EcoNetwork is not able to offer paid employment at the end of the placement, I can understand why the students were more inclined to spend time with other agencies who could potentially offer greater employment prospects.
However, the process did lead to one significant development. As a result of the engagement with the university, EcoNetwork has just signed up our newest and youngest individual member.
Alarna Thompson was born and raised in Nelson Bay and her generations of her family have worked in the fishing industry. Alarna told me, “I am so proud to live in a place where I can drive around and see streets and parks named after my family. It gives me a real sense of pride. Along with that pride comes my desire to protect this community and environment.”
Alarna is currently studying for a Bachelor of Development Studies and Global Indigenous Studies with majors in citizenship and culture and international political economy. She has a passion for advocating for First Nations peoples. When she was in high school her mother, a qualified nurse, taught her about the systemic issues impacting First Nations people’s health. In year 11 and 12, Alarna elected to take Aboriginal Studies and this helped her find her niche degree. She plans to graduate in 2024 and aspires to work in local government in a role that unites people and the environment and elevates First Nations voices. Alarna is also a Young Environmental Champion as part of the empowerment program Action For Agriculture.
Volunteering with the Wilderness Society at the Sustainable Futures Festival in 2023 was Alarna’s first interaction with EcoNetwork. Alarna has expressed interest in volunteering with EcoNetwork and her range of skills will be of great benefit. Alarna has excellent social media and event management skills. She is also creative and has highly developed communication and conversational skills. EcoNetwork is very excited to be able to work with Alarna and the feeling is apparently mutual as Alarna said, “I am so excited to be a part of the community. I long for a place to make meaningful change in my local area that I can be a part of for my whole life and pass the baton to my children one day!”