Even if you haven’t seen The Devil Wears Prada, you’d be familiar with the idea of the horrific internship spent fetching coffees and posting letters rather than doing anything towards your future career.
Enter Interns Australia, which was formed in October 2013 by a group of young individuals in Melbourne and Sydney. Led by Colleen Chen and Adi Prasad, the organisation is working to keep terrible internships experiences limited to the subject of Hollywood blockbusters.
Becoming an intern activist
After applying for multiple internships, Colleen soon found that many of them required prior experience. This issue was something she often talked about, but didn’t do anything about until she and Leesa stumbled across the UK intern rights movement and the publication Intern (new window).
"I met all these people who were involved in the intern movement as activists. Seeing that there wasn’t such an organisation in Australia, we decided to form one," Colleen says.
The data isn't out there
They soon realised the complexities of the issue. Not only did they have to create an organisation while studying, they had to find out about something that wasn’t really ever openly talked about.
"The data just isn’t out there. We don’t even know how many unpaid interns there are out there," she says.
One of the main reasons there aren’t any figures on internships is because interns are often not wiling to talk about their experiences.
"I think a lot of the time people don’t want to burn their bridges after so much hard work," she says.
Although it’s not the case that interns are always exploited and poorly treated, Interns Australia want to be there to prevent the situation from happening in the first place.
"We understand that not all internships are bad and that there are some good ones out there," Colleen says.
"But there are some really dodgy practices, so we want to be a sort of port of call where interns can find out about the potential dangers."