While many young people see unpaid internships as a way to find work in competitive industries, Interns Australia says too many employers use the system for their own benefit.
Before she started as an intern at a booming Melbourne arts publishing company, Colleen Chen was asked to sign a contract. It stated she would be unpaid for her 12-week placement. Any work she did would remain exclusively the company's possession. And she would not be covered by workplace insurance.
''There's a fine line between gaining experience and being used as free labour,'' said 23-year-old Ms Chen, who did two other internships elsewhere before abandoning the arts for a law degree.
Lengthy unpaid internships, long a feature of the American and European labour markets, have become mainstream in Australia over the past two decades.
Young interns now pour into all of the professional industries, but particularly the media, the creative arts, non-government organisations, banking and law.
But the internships are largely unregulated and often in a legal grey area, despite many of the firms taking on interns being financially flush.