A last word on the Prime Minister's visit

With little more than a week's notice - 8 of the 12 UCWIPers for 2012 were treated to an amazing day in Canberra on Friday, December 15th. 

Highlights included meeting the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and numerous other ministers, staff, and journalists.  In the attached photo with PM Julia Gillard at Parliament House, the students are (from left to right):

1.       Bethany, University of Melbourne, in the office of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
2.       Carl, University of Queensland, in the office of the House Judiciary Committee (minority)
3.       Cleo, Deakin University, in the office of Rep. John Tierney
4.       Helen, University of Melbourne, in the office of Rep. James Clyburn
5.       Rebecca, US Studies Centre @ Sydney University, in the office of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
6.       Medina, University of Melbourne, in the office of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee (majority)
7.       Brooke, University of Canberra, in the office of Rep. Loretta Sanchez
8.       Joshua, University of Queensland, in the office of Rep. Robert Aderholt

The students have applied through Student Placement Australia New Zealand and of the other four, three were already travelling out of the country and the fourth was in Perth and unable to make the trip on short notice.

Below is the news release by the UCWIP office. 


16 DECEMBER 2011

This Christmas, a dozen university students from across Australia will head off to Washington, DC to spend their summer interning inside the American Congress as part of the Uni-Capitol Washington Internship Programme (UCWIP). 

But before crossing the Pacific the students travelled to Canberra today to meet with the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and received a few words of advice for their time in the US capital as unofficial ambassadors. 

Based in the US, UCWIP is a not-for-profit exchange offering students from 8 universities two-month, full-time internships across a bipartisan array of offices in the House and Senate as well as the non-partisan Helsinki Commission office. Each of the students has been closely matched to their offices through a competitive application process. 

Carl Tessman from the University of Queensland said: "Through my internship with the House Judiciary Committee I hope to learn about the American judicial and legislative systems and do my bit to keep up the good reputation Aussie interns seem to have up in the Capitol." UCWIP recently received the Vice-Chancellor's Award for Internationalisation from the University of Queensland.

Helen Babb, from the University of Melbourne and to intern with House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, said "I'm extremely excited. I hope to become a diplomat and this internship provides unique hands-on exposure to US domestic politics, foreign policy and its relationship with Australia."

UCWIP aims to promote and strengthen the American-Australian relationship by offering young Australians rare insights into the inner workings of the American legislature while offering congressional hosts opportunities to explore through these young Australians the often parallel public policy debates in Australia. 

During their time in the US, interns undertake a range of tasks including legislative research, writing, and constituent liaison. They also attend committee hearings and press conferences. 

Programming for UCWIP interns includes briefings by the US State Department and the Australian Embassy; day trips to Philadelphia, birthplace of the American republic and Constitution, and Gettysburg, site of the pivotal Civil War battle. Past interns have also attended presidential swearing-in ceremonies and related inaugural festivities. 

UCWIP was created by Eric K. Federing, who directs and manages the program pro bono. His American-Australian internship efforts began in 1999. Prior to that, Federing was a senior congressional advisor for a dozen years as communications director/press secretary for Rep. Norm Mineta of California, the House Transportation Committee, and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Federing is a board member of the congressionally-chartered National Conference on Citizenship and by day an Executive Director for KPMG LLP. 

With the 2012 intake, Federing will have organized and shepherded 130 internships across 13 program years. UCWIP's intake will be drawn through 10 Australian universities in 2013. 

"To say my role is a privilege is a tremendous understatement," said Federing. I travelled extensively throughout Australia in the 1990s while still a congressional advisor, speaking at universities and to business groups and think tanks. I was inspired to look for new paths to bring Americans and Australians together in ways that were genuine, sustainable, and personalized. I eventually thought that a best way to do this would also give something back to two communities I cared about - Australia and Congress, by connecting them." The real stars of it all, of course, are the hugely enterprising students, with fullest credit for fulfilling this concept owed to them, their universities and all the congressional hosts.

Partnering in UCWIP is Daphne Clones Federing, herself a former senior economist with the Joint Economic Committee in the US Congress and Federing's wife.