In 1996, a decade before ‘Google’ became a verb, 21-year-old Alistair Harkness was conducting research as a Parliamentary Intern. He recalls sitting in the bowels of the Trades Hall Council, sifting through employment records in Lever Arch folders. Under the guidance of Steve Bracks, Shadow Treasurer at the time, Alistair was examining changes to Victoria’s employment relations. Shortly before Alistair was due to submit his report, the Victorian government referred its industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth. Alistair describes how this move unexpectedly reframed his report as an ‘entertaining, historical read, rather than a call to arms’.
After graduating from Monash University, Alistair remained engaged with the Victorian Parliament. He became an Electorate Officer for Steve Bracks during his first term as Premier and at 28, was elected the youngest Member of Parliament, representing the seat of Frankston.
During his time as an MP, Alistair hosted Interns from Monash University, the University of Melbourne and Victoria University. Reflecting upon the research undertaken by his former Interns, Alistair describes Jared Heath’s 2003 report into the need for an Aquatic Centre in the Frankston area. This provided recommendations for the location, funding and benefits of a potential regional Aquatic Centre. 10 years hence, having received $49.7 million of government funding, the new Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre has opened in Frankston. Alistair’s daughter will celebrate her 8th birthday at the Aquatic Centre envisaged by a former Parliamentary Intern.
Alistair has always aimed to set research topics relevant to his electorate, focussing on topics including youth services, multiculturalism, cycling paths, reckless driving, social housing and mental illness. Having watched the Victorian Parliamentary Internship Program evolve over almost two decades, Alistair describes the Program as an ‘eye-opening, rewarding experience’ for both students and MPs alike.
The Victorian Parliament celebrated the 25 Year Anniversary of this innovative partnership in 2015.
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