What a great internship looks like? Interns Australia launches the National Fair Internship Pledge

Annalisa Di Palo

Annalisa Di Palo

Scritto il 27 Ott 2015 in International


November 10, chosen day for the dawning of the first International Interns Day, is fast approaching. Interns Australia, the support and advocacy body for young people undertaking work placement in Australia, has decided to mark the occasion with the launch of the National Fair Internship Pledge, an initiative aimed at promoting a virtuous culture of internships and distinguishing the best ones in the country. Repubblica degli Stagisti has broached the subject, along with related others, with Dimity Mannering, 30, newly appointed executive director of Interns Australia. Employed in financial services, communications and stakeholder relations, she has also worked in employment law and advised on the communications for the European Union’s youth unemployment and justice strategies.

How and when was Interns Australia established?

Interns Australia was established in 2013 by a group of former interns, students and professionals and today has branches in Sydney and Melbourne. IA has quickly became recognised as the national representative body for interns in Australia. While we work across a range of areas, our main focus is on raising awareness of challenges relating to internships through the media, engaging government and industry, speaking with students and interns, which we do mainly through social media and events, undertaking research, and providing insight and consulting to universities, businesses and other groups.

Who are the people working at Interns Australia?
IA has a group of around eight core volunteers and a large number of supporters. Among our core volunteers, the ages range between 21 and 30, and while the educational profile varies, most have law, economics or humanities backgrounds.

Does it benefit from any form of funding?

We receive donations
from supporters and run fundraising campaigns, as well as receive ad hoc support from various programs.

Does the distinction between formative and post-study internships apply in Australia?

Internships are very new to Australia and because of this, there is no legal definition of an intern or specific recognition of interns in law. However, there is a provision that means employers do not have to pay students who do work for the purposes of their studies. This is quite an ambiguous part of the law though, and our research shows that many interns aren’t paid even though legally they should be.

What about internships held within a company or a public institution: do they differ?

No. There is no distinction for this.

Is there a limit age for being an intern?

Australia has no age limit for interns.

In what circumstances an intern must be paid, by law?

The law is quite ambiguous but essentially an intern must be paid if the internship is not part of education or training. That said, there are many interns who are not paid yet they are not in education or training, which is in breach of our labour laws – and this is what Interns Australia is trying to change.

What do you think is the most critical issue to address as far as Australian interns rights go?

From IA’s perspective there a great number of issues but the key ones are, firstly, raising awareness of how many interns there are in Australia and how many of them are not being paid when they legally should be. Secondly, the law currently doesn’t recognise interns and this leads to confusion and quite significant exploitation.

Do you possess data or estimates on the total number of interns in Australia?
Because internships are such a new phenomenon in Australia, we have no idea how many interns there are. This is something we will work with researchers and other parties to determine in the future.

What about the international context, do you identify priorities?
Internationally, there needs to be serious recognition of the widespread problem of exploitation within internships and how this impacts individuals, businesses and communities. This isn’t just a problem that affects interns themselves – there are a whole raft of problems and injustices it creates for industry and the community more broadly.

How Interns Australia is preparing for the International Interns Day?

On the eve of International Interns Day, we are very excited to be launching the National Fair Internship Pledge, which is an Australia-first initiative to recognise fair and quality internships. We will also be releasing the results of our annual survey, which will provide government, law makers and Australians generally some insight into the extent of internships and the challenges they are creating.

Could you briefly explain the Fair Internship Pledge project?

The National Fair Internship Pledge aims to promote the value and importance of fair and quality internships through providing a seal to distinguish Australia’s best internships. We are launching on 9 November. In developing the Pledge, we have worked very closely with the major employee protection bodies in Australia to determine what a great internship looks like, which means in basic terms, that it is paid at least minimum wage, offers real learning opportunities and outcomes and provides mentoring, support and adequate workplace protections to interns. All companies who sign the NFIP will pay
an administration fee and will receive significant promotion from IA. This is both to recognise them for doing a great job of supporting interns but also to provide interns with a clear way of identifying a good internship program.

According to your annual survey, what interns vindicate the most and would like the NFIP to address? 
Almost 80 per cent of interns in Australia believe that all internships should be paid. They believe that the work they are doing is real work that should attract remuneration. On another level, the results also show that a very significant number of internships in Australia may be illegal, and this is something Interns Australia is goingo to address. 

Annalisa Di Palo