Interns and Startups in Australia

Interns and startups have a long and healthy tradition. So it comes as no surprise it’s super popular to grab an intern for some extra work with your social media, blogging and whatever else you have going.

However there is a lot of misconception about what you can and can’t do with an intern in the startup arena.

Having investigated this for a couple of my clients, this is what I found out after speaking with Fair Work Australia about interns and startups.



Unless you are a registered arts body or not-for-profit, you need to either pay your intern or tie their work with you to an approved course under a Vocational Placement.

To qualify as s startup to make use of an intern:

·         You need to develop a structured program for the intern- this will need approval by the student’s institution and course convenor if not through a centralised vocational body.

·         You can only employ interns who are coming from Vocational Placement Approved universities (not all are so it is a matter of checking with each university and appropriate department).

·         The work they perform must form part of their degree program with written approval from the course supervisor and/or Vocational placement body on campus.

·         The length of the intern’s placement can be as small as a day or two and as long as needed– as long as it is still tied to course work- and this is determined on a institution/course basis in most cases.


What this basically means is if your student doesn’t have approval from their educational institution that the work they do for you goes towards their course in some way, you MUST pay them the award.

There is no such thing as you and intern agree experience is enough in these circumstances in startup.

That kind of assistance and leeway is only reserved for creative bodies and NFPs that have the appropriate certified status.


Some starting points for startups looking for an intern are:

·         RMIT (Melb)

·         Uni of Melb

·         UNSW (Syd)

·         UTS (Syd)


Bottom line on interns and startups in Australia:

Be careful not to be caught up in the “oh I’ll just hire a free intern” craze sweeping the startup community lest you end up with a rather painful experience.


If you want more information, give the guys at Fair Work Australia a call.





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