Meet our 2022 interns

Benjamin Caulfield

Benjamin CaulfieldBenjamin is currently completing a Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) in Music Specialist Studies, with cognate study in public policy. 

His key interest areas in public policy include cultural policy, cultural diplomacy, understanding changing approaches to arts funding across the Indo-Pacific, as well as integrating ESG considerations across sectors. 

Where do you hope to be in the next 10 years? 

Having several interests across public policy, I hope to be in a role at the intersection of these domains, whether in the public, not-for-profit, or private sectors. One of my formative experiences was serving as the inaugural co-chair of the WA Ministerial Youth Advisory Council for 2017-2020 which showed me that policies affecting young people across healthcare, education, and urban development need youth input. The consultation process was just a small part of what goes into legislation, but it sparked in me a passion for policymaking and ensuring the priorities of diverse groups are at the forefront of government considerations. This has set me on a path where I want to be able to determine strategic priorities over the long term, foster sustainable and inclusive economic development, and build Australia’s cultural industries and their resilience. 

What do you believe to be the main impacts of COVID-19 on policy?

Like many of the challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 has facilitated, the impact on public policy has been contradictory. On the one hand, unprecedented fiscal stimulus and government intervention have challenged traditional political priorities for a smaller government role, instead of with a bipartisan focus favouring more targeted but expanded public sector mandates across the economy. Global policy discourse, at least for the earlier period of the pandemic, centred around the theme of "building back better" and ensuring that vast digital platforms were heavily scrutinised and well-regulated, ensuring a fairer contribution to society. 

However, at least at a federal level, much ‘new’ policy appears to favour incrementalism – potentially yearning for a time of comparative stability. Furthermore, Federal Government positions on major policy issues appear more reactive to a news cycle or the next election, rather than setting ambitious goals to propel Australia towards the future. However, such "stability" is hardly inclusive, sustainable, or cognisant of inequalities. The absence of clear government seems that the private sector and not-for-profits are doing the norm-setting expected of government, with a mandate driven by community and investor expectations. 



Chris Crellin

Chris CrellinChris holds a Bachelor with a double major in International Relations and International Business from Curtin University, a Master in European Studies from KU Leuven, and is in his final semester of a Master of Public Policy at UWA. 

His key research interests relate to the governance of the commons, specifically climate change, institutions and the European Union, networks, and the Indo-Pacific region.

What do you believe is the most pressing policy issue faced by Australia?

I think the most pressing policy issue faced by Australia, and more broadly the global community, is the impacts of climate change across multiple policy areas and how responses to such impacts are managed. 

In the short term, the biggest issue is how the Australian federal system responds in a coordinated manner to extreme events. As climate change worsens, extreme weather events will intensify and increase in frequency, potentially devastating many communities. Therefore, there needs to be a more coordinated and effective policy solution to respond to such events so that the damages are mitigated. 

In the long term, the biggest issue will be the diversifying of the Australian economy as civil society transitions away from fossil fuels. Due to the high socio-economic reliance on fossil fuels, such diversification efforts will require a whole-of-government approach to ensure that all aspects of the economy, both domestic and internationally, as well as society, can still progress and remain prosperous.  

What do you believe to be the main impacts of COVID-19 on policy?

Of all the impacts that COVID-19 is going to have on policymaking in the long term, there are two broader questions that I have considered, which are still yet to fully play out:

The first question is what does the future of Australia looks like? To me, COVID-19 has exacerbated the Federal system, illustrating the importance and prominence of the states in the decision-making process and crisis response, and simultaneously raising questions around the perceived legitimacy of the Federal government. 

The second question is will we see a shift from a global perspective to a more regionalised focus or even to a local and internal focus on policymaking and governance? COVID-19 has strained a lot of the current global systems, like supply chains and trade, that were in place. As such, I am curious to see how states will recalibrate, and how this will impact global systems and governance frameworks.


Breanna Fernandes 

Breanna FernandesBreanna is currently completing a Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) in Political Science and International Relations and German Studies. 

Her key interests in public policy include the various disproportions between different groups, law and policy reform, and strengthening transnational policies, particularly concerning climate change.

What do you forecast to be the most important policy issues in the next 5 years?

As the world grows more interconnected, I think the most important policy issues will be ones that span across policy fields, areas, and jurisdictions – the most imperative being climate change. 

The severity and prevalence of devastations resulting from climate change have exponentially increased in the last 5 years, meaning that the next 5 years will be critical in curbing the impacts of the further devastations we will inevitably face. Dealing with climate change will not be a small or easy task, however, as it requires a balanced mix of policies to not only mitigate the impacts of climate change through targeted measures, regulations and accountability, but also acclimatise to the lingering impacts. Furthermore, as climate change spans multiple policy domains and jurisdictions, it demands effective global cooperation that will most certainly breed its own unique issues. 

As well as climate change, I believe effectively balancing international growth and inequality and creating legitimate international bodies of control and regulation for the global economy will also be important focus areas for policymakers globally. 

What do you believe to be the main impacts of COVID-19 on policy?

I believe the main impact of COVID-19 has been highlighting the certain limitations and failures of government and its processes. The new and unique challenges of this crisis have shifted the role of the state and tested governments and global systems in not only dealing with the direct impacts of the virus itself but also its various social, economic, and fiscal consequences. 

This is not necessarily a bad thing – for example, in Australia, the effectiveness of the Federal system has been tested and proved itself relatively successful in dealing with crises, but I believe this would not have been the case without first remedying the failures in communication and cooperation between national and state institutions at the beginning of the pandemic. We can only hope that the other limitations that have been illuminated from COVID-19 – especially surrounding healthcare and the disproportionate nature of the impacts between social and regional groups – will be rectified through policy in the coming years.


Jemah Harrison

Jemah HarrisonJemah is studying her Juris Doctor after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Science and International Relations from UWA in 2021.

She is currently working in the community legal sector and is interested in strengthening the government's policies surrounding access to justice, particularly for women in rural and remote areas, as well as youth mental health, and international law.

Why did you want to join the UWA Public Policy Institute? 

Being a young female pursuing a career in Law/Policy, I knew that joining the UWA Public Policy Institute would allow and encourage me to engage in and promote conversations surrounding Australia's current policy decisions and questions. Having the opportunity to learn and listen to some of WA's most renowned researchers, government members and other members of the public is an immense privilege and one I am excited to be involved in.

What do you believe to be the main impacts of COVID-19 on policy?

Comparable to other countries, Australia has had less severe health and economic outcomes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it has drawn attention to the weaknesses of Australia's health systems on a national and state level, as well as highlighting the stark inequalities between communities. Low vaccination rates in our rural and remote communities and access to health care and other services are just some of the impacts on these communities and other minority groups. 

Further disadvantages arise with lower access to legal services and justice, which paired with the increase in domestic violence among households across the pandemic, raises many policy and funding concerns, particularly for women in rural and remote communities. Working in the community legal sector, I have seen first-hand how lower access to services affects our population on an individual scale and how this contributes to the growing levels of disproportionality in our communities. The question remains for policymakers: how do we strengthen and prioritise these groups during a global pandemic and state of emergency?


Collated and edited by Breanna Fernandes.