Excel Heaven

When you’re an engineering student winter break is not ideal.

The shortest in the academic calendar, at one month, engineering internships are offered primarily in summer where the three-month holiday provides a better learning experience. UWA student Bryan Wiratno explains why: “You need to undertake many project briefings and by the time you start proper, winter break is over.”

Not content to sit out Perth’s blustery holiday period Bryan looked at other roles on offer through The McCusker Centre for Citizenship an organisation he became aware of while visiting their stand at UWA’s International Welcome Day.


Born in Jakarta Indonesia, Bryan studied with high school friends who wanted to be doctors. But he enjoyed physics, and felt engineering was a “promising career”. Growing up in the sprawling city of over 10 million people, he was not immune to thousands of people sleeping rough on the streets.

Bryan Wiratno

“Everyone deserves a great home.”

“In Perth, you can count the amount of homeless people in your hands, and they’re the same people,” Bryan said. “But in Jakarta it is everywhere. Homelessness is interesting for me, I grew up in a great home, and everyone deserves a great home. I feel so many social issues can be fixed if everybody could have a better home.”

Excel Heaven

After noting homelessness as a field of interest to him in his application, the McCusker Centre matched him to Shelter WA. Thinking initially his work at the independent peak body would be “very separate to engineering”, there has been synergies.

Engineering and Microsoft Excel is a match made in heaven. For most, a tool used once a year to determine the amount owed to the tax man, in an engineer’s hands rows of numbers create powerful engineering models by looking up data from tables and pulling it into calculations.

Excel is also handy in displaying geographical data.

Midland Community Living Map

Earlier this year the Zero Project introduced the homelessness sector to a “living” homelessness services map. Using open-source free software called Kumu, the program organises complex data into relationship maps. You don’t need to understand coding to use it, just be able to manage text within an Excel spreadsheet. The first map completed by the Zero Project is on the Midland area it has grown to include Perth services more broadly.

Shelter WA’s Regional Engagement Manager Rhiannon Bristow-Stagg saw how mapping regional housing and homelessness networks in WA can contribute to Shelter WA’s regional engagement project.

“Excel and Excel and Excel again.”

To Bryan’s delight it meant working with “Excel and Excel and Excel again”. “I take raw data from Rhiannon and I’m compiling existing information and formatting it on Kumu,” he said. “A lot of the data is messy in a way and not synced together. I put it in manually and add hundreds and hundreds of entries. I find regionally many of the services are along the coast but in north-east Western Australia there are long distances between services.”

The Midland “living” map.

For Rhiannon the work is extremely important. “Mapping WA regional housing and homelessness networks through Kumu has never been done before and the assistance offered by Elise Haddleton at Zero Project has been amazing,” she said. Once completed, the map will allow us to see how organisations connect at a local, regional, and state level to drive collective change. It is crucial to help us see the gaps to inform regional resourcing and engagement.”

McCusker Centre

Shelter WA is proud to collaborate with students from the McCusker Centre for Citizenship at UWA. Find out more here.