Sun. May 26th, 2024

Nariman was forced to give up her career dream because of this ‘discriminatory’ requirement

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May26,2024
Nariman Dein had always dreamed of doing a master’s degree in psychology.
“I’ve always wanted to help people, especially as a psychologist,” the 22-year-old honours graduate from Sydney told SBS News.
But when she discovered that she’d have to complete as part of the degree, she was forced to abandon her goal.
“I was told as well that they recommend students to work a maximum of 10 hours in a different job — that was very unrealistic for me because I have a lot of bills that I have to pay,” she said.
“It’s just pretty sad, because if someone studied that long and they put so much effort in their exams and assignments just to know, ‘Well, I can’t do my master’s because I can’t afford it’.

“It’s kind of just like a slap in the face.”

Dein said the practice of unpaid placements was “discriminatory” against students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and limited diversity in certain professions.
“You really need to have everything together. You need to be (living) at home, you need to have parents that can financially support you for two years without you getting a job,” she said.
“If there’s any factor that’s different, such as if you’re married, you have kids or you live alone … it doesn’t make it easy on you at all.”
Dein is passionate about the issue, posting on TikTok about her experiences and starting a petition on Change.org demanding changes to the current system.
At the time of writing, the petition had almost 4,500 signatures, with people sharing personal anecdotes about mandatory unpaid work placements and the toll it’s had on their lives.
“I did this through uni and almost had a breakdown,” one person commented.

“Worked seven days a week for three months, only two days were paid as I worked part-time outside of the five days unpaid placement. Also had to submit assignments and readings to pass — this needs to change.”

Not employees

Degrees such as social work, nursing, teaching, and counselling require hundreds of hours of unpaid placement work.
Under the Fair Work Act, students who participate in placements are not considered employees, meaning they cannot earn minimum wage or receive other benefits.
Unpaid placements, paired with , have forced some students to drop out or move to part-time studies.
Teachers' pay

Those studying teaching are required to complete unpaid placements. Source: AAP / Ben Birchall/PA

The practice of requiring unpaid placements was flagged in the , released in February, which labelled it “placement poverty”.

The report stated that continuing to have unpaid placements would be a barrier for students striving for higher education.

As one of its final 47 recommendations, the report stated the government should fund paid placements, especially for nursing, care, and teaching students who undertake mandatory placement as part of their degree.

‘Not a priority’

In response to a detailed list of questions, Education Minister Jason Clare told SBS News in an emailed statement the “government will respond to the Accord’s final report shortly”.
No further details were given. Clare previously said addressing the issue of unpaid placements was not the government’s primary priority.

“There are things in this report [the authors] want us to act on right now, there’s other things that they want to debate in the community about,” Clare told Triple J’s Hack program in late February. “This is in that second category,”

Sachintha Guruge, an international student from Sri Lanka, says that’s not good enough.
Guruge, a member of Students Against Placement Poverty (SAPP), enrolled in a Bachelor of Social Work — a program that requires 1,000 hours of unpaid placement.

“When I got into the degree, I had some idea I would have to do a placement but I didn’t know it was for free,” Guruge told SBS News.

A man in a suit standing and talking in federal parliament

Education Minister Jason Clare said addressing unpaid placements was not among the government’s key priorities. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas

“It was a total shock for me to have to do all this free work and sacrifice my personal time.”

He said Clare’s response about unpaid placements not being a priority made him angry.
“It’s so unfair … I know students that are struggling, I myself — my bank account went down to minus $5 today, it is important”.
Guruge said his choice of program came about through his previous work as a disability support worker.
“I have a passion for helping people,” he said.

“How do they expect to attract people to do this essential work if students can’t even finish their degrees?”

‘They’re just buying time’

Taelah Akers, also a SAPP member, just graduated from her nursing degree in Queensland, a program that requires 800 hours of unpaid placement, or about three months with no income.
“With nursing, you save up and work as much as you can throughout the degree while studying and then you prepare to spend that money while on placement — then you’re back at zero,” Akers told SBS News.
Then there are the placements themselves. Akers said nursing students are treated like apprentices, expected to get “on the job” training, attached to nursing staff who sometimes are recent graduates themselves.
“Our skill-sets vary from individual student to individual student, it depends on whether you had good teachers and facilitators or not,” she said.

Vulnerable students are exposed to intense workplace pressure, inflexible workplace arrangements and even bullying, according to Akers, who says they stick it out so they are not forced to repeat placements.

“They will dangle the degree in front of us, and if you don’t play ball how they want … you don’t get a say,” she said.
Akers believes Clare and the government are just “buying time” trying to decide how to tackle the issue of unpaid placements.
She believes there would be fewer spots available for students if employers paid for placements, especially in critical fields like mental health and community medicine.
“The problems with healthcare are not a recruitment problem but a retention problem … The education minister shouldn’t consult nurses who completed their degree 30 years ago, or live in a world of academia but instead ask those (students, new graduates) who are keeping a health system afloat,” Akers said.
“I have been job hunting since graduation with no luck,” she said.

“My 800-plus hours feel like they were for nothing”.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “Nariman was forced to give up her career dream because of this ‘discriminatory’ requirement”
  1. It’s truly disheartening to hear about Nariman’s experience. The requirement of unpaid placements is indeed discriminatory and excludes many talented individuals who come from diverse backgrounds. Changes are urgently needed to make education more accessible and inclusive for everyone.

  2. Do you think universities should reconsider such ‘discriminatory’ requirements that hinder students from pursuing their career dreams?

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