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Aussie slams 'unfair' ask to work 1,000 hours without pay

Nariman Dein already has $40,000 in HECS debt and says unpaid placements are adding further financial stress on students.

A young Aussie has slammed an “unfair” practice that requires university students to work for free in order to graduate.

Unpaid work placements are a mandatory part of many university degrees, including nursing, teaching, social work and psychology. Nursing degrees, for instance, require at least 800 hours of placement, while social work and occupational therapy programs require 1,000 hours.

Western Sydney University graduate Nariman Dein told Yahoo Finance unpaid placements meant students were “forced to choose” between getting an education and working to earn enough money to live.

Nariman Dein
A young Aussie has called out unpaid work placements and says it is now “impossible” for students to afford university. (Source: Instagram)

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The 22-year-old recently graduated with an honours psychology degree - along with $40,000 in HECS debt - and said mandatory unpaid placements were preventing her from going back to university to complete her Masters.

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“I really wanted to do my Masters and I have always wanted to be a psychologist, but I just found it unfair,” Dein told Yahoo Finance.

“It didn't seem right to me that I’m going to be training to be a psychologist and actually offering what I’ve learnt at uni, just for me to not make any money off it.”

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Dein currently works part-time as an applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapist, as well as part-time as a social media creator. She said she now won’t consider doing her Masters unless placements become paid, something the University Accord’s recent report has recommended.

“It kind of pauses your life in a way where I would have to stay at home and live with my parents if I wanted to do my Masters,” Dein said.

Aussies struggling

Dein recently posted a video to TikTok about unpaid placement requirements and received an influx of responses from other Aussies.

“I’m doing nursing and my uni doesn’t allow us to work during placement at all. Our longest placement is 6 weeks… no pay or work for 6 weeks,” one said.

“I struggled so much between doing uni full time, doing an unpaid three month internship and my paid job. Balancing all three was impossible so I quit my paid job to finish uni,” another said.

“The teaching degrees work placement/prac pays you $0 an hour for 6 weeks of Monday to Friday 9-3pm. It’s ridiculous they should pay at least [the] minimum rate,” a third wrote.

Nariman Dein
Dein said she is now putting off doing her Masters because of the pressure unpaid placements will put on her. (Source: Instagram)

Dein believes indexation of HECS debts is adding further financial pressures and making it “impossible” for younger Aussies to afford to study.

HECS debts are indexed in line with inflation, with debts rising 7.1 per cent last year and adding $1,759 to the average debt of $24,770.

Calls for students to be paid

The Universities Accord report found mandatory unpaid placements are pushing some students into financial hardship, labelling the situation “placement poverty”.

It recommended the Australian government works with higher education providers and employers to introduce payment for placements. Under the proposal, the government would pay for placements in areas where there are shortages such as nursing, care and teaching. Employers, public and private, would pay for placements for other fields.

The report also recommended workplaces sign a code of conduct to ensure placements are necessary and that students “gain industry relevant skills and experience without imposing onerous placement length and conditions”.

Dein believes this would make many students “feel less stressed” and would encourage more to study in sectors that are in desperate need of workers.

“It’s very important for Australians to go to university and the government wants us to go to university and get these types of roles but they don’t really help us achieve that,” Dein said. “There are always obstacles.”

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