Insights from a Social Policy Placement with Mission Australia

2 April 2024
Master of Public Policy student shares her social policy placement journey
Meet Isobelle, a Master of Public Policy student with a passion for social policy who is undertaking a placement with Mission Australia.

We spoke with Isobelle about her experience working with Mission Australia, shedding light on the transition from academia to professional practice in the social policy sector.

From engaging in impactful projects to navigating the dynamics of remote teamwork, she offers insights and practical advice for students considering similar placements in the field.

What did you expect to gain from a placement?

"I am currently undertaking my Master of Public Policy, specialising in social policy. After completing my studies, I hope to begin a career as a policy officer working in the social policy sector. As I have only ever worked in hospitality and retail, I haven't had the experience of working in an office setting. With this placement, I was looking to gain experience in that environment and apply the learning I've done through my degree to professional practice."

Why did you apply for this specific placement opportunity?

"Mission Australia's work aligns with my own values and interests in supporting vulnerable people and creating policy that supports them. The position of 'Assistant Policy Officer' also aligns with my career goals, so it was a perfect combination for me."

Isobelle Cooper at her desk at Mission Australia

Isobelle Cooper, Master of Public Policy student

"During my 3-month placement with Mission Australia, I am primarily working on literature reviews. These include topics such as First Nations co-designed social housing in the Northern Territory, Australian youth homelessness, and the universal basic income. I also engage in smaller day-to-day tasks, such as drafting election priority letters to key ministers and proof-reading work."

"Make sure that you choose a placement that is relevant to what you want to do for work and are interested in - it'll make it so easy to find enjoyment and value. Remember, even if you don't have the workplace experience, your studies have equipped you with a good knowledge base. The people you work with will help guide you - they don't expect you to be an expert!"
Isobelle Cooper, Master of Public Policy student

What does a typical day look like for you in your placement?

"My placement is mostly remote as my team members are from different places in Australia, so a lot of communication happens through emails and team meetings. We have a weekly team meeting where we discuss what everyone has been working on and collaborate on ideas - as well as a bit of social talk! Other meetings are organised to discuss specific projects. The meetings are only a few hours each week, so I spend most of my time doing solo research and reading all the interesting projects and communications shared with me. Occasionally I also attend external meetings/seminars, such as the recent webinar hosted by the Productivity Commission on their assessment of the Closing The Gap report."

What would you say to students who are unsure about participating in the placement program? 

"As a newcomer to the industry, this placement has been a great opportunity to gain valuable experience, while knowing that my colleagues understand that I may need guidance. I am much more comfortable knowing what to expect when I do start paid employment in the industry. Looking ahead to my job search, it's reassuring to have gained relevant industry experience that I can showcase on my resume. As much as studying provides a good basis of theory and knowledge, day-to-day work is a bit different to writing essays. It's been useful to see what that looks like!"

Placement opportunities at the School of Social and Political Sciences

Our placement program offers students the opportunity to integrate academic knowledge with real-world experience, equipping them for the ever-changing job landscape. Through a combination of work-integrated learning and skill development, students engage in specialized projects with leading government and private organizations, both domestically and internationally, alongside NGOs, research firms, and think tanks. Explore our internships and placements to uncover further avenues for practical learning.

Have questions? Contact our Placements Coordinator at

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