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If you want people to come and work for you, paying them for that work should really go without saying.

Unpaid internships — occasionally billed as “work experience” or “an opportunity for exposure, or other similar words — are a cancer that needs to be removed from the Australian work landscape.

It’s really quite simple. They are exploitative, they are pure evil and, in a lot of cases, they are downright illegal.

This has been something of a crusade for me over the last few years. While I was studying at uni there were endless “opportunities” presented to me to get my writing out there. To build up a reputation and to gain so-called invaluable experience as to how my chosen field operates in our modern, ultra-competitive world.

In return, all I had to do was be willing to bend over and make sure to leave the lubricants at home.

One only needs to glance at the various online job boards to see the extent of this problem. is a perfect example. Even the most superficial examination of the positions listed there offer everything under the sun. Except cash money compensation for your work.

Today, Junkee (part of the Sound Alliance group which includes familiar sites such as FasterLouder and Same Same) put up a post advertising for “three super keen and talented students, who are keen to get some experience in social media, marketing or events”.

The positions offered were for “three months from mid-April, with a one-day-per-week commitment, at the Sound Alliance office in Sydney’s Surry Hills”.

Sounds good, right? Wrong.

What was offered was in fact a place in their “unpaid internship program”.

Fair Work Australia, the government body that oversees employer/employee relationships, is pretty clear on what constitutes an actual internship or vocational placement — which are perfectly legal and should be encouraged — and what companies, like Junkee, are offering.

The test is quite simple.

According to Fair Work Australia: “A vocational placement is a formal work experience arrangement that is part of an education or training course.”

The positions offered by Junkee fail this test immediately. From what was posted on their ad, there is no formal relationship between Junkee and any sort of educational institution. You simply apply, and if they like you enough you can go and work there. And not get paid.

Fair Work Australia continues: “Where an unpaid work arrangement is not a vocational placement, the arrangement can only be lawful if no employment relationship exists”

What is an employment relationship?

Fair Work Australia again:

- The parties intend to create a legally binding arrangement
- There is a commitment to perform work for the benefit of the business or organisation
- The person performing the work is to get something in return (which might be just experience or training)
- The person must not be performing the work as part of a business of their own.

The big one here is the second point: “to perform work for the benefit of the business or organisation”.

According to what Junkee is advertising, the tasks accepted candidates will be doing include:

- "Sourcing images, content creation, community management, brainstorming strategy ideas and responding to fan enquires, assisting with reporting plus broad administrative support to the entire team" if they are the social media intern.
- "management of website content, newsletters, social media support, building PR contact lists, event support plus broad administrative support to the entire team. In particular you’ll be working across the inthemix Awards, Electronic Music Conference and other projects for Junkee, AWOL and FasterLouder" if they are the marketing and communications intern, and
- "sourcing supplier quotes, support with pre-event documents, assisting onsite at events, writing creative briefs, assisting in brainstorms for new ideas plus broad administrative support to the entire team" if they are accepted as the event management intern.

It is pretty clear that everything listed there is a task that would ordinarily be undertaken by a paid employee as part of their relevant position description.

Returning to Fair Work Australia, we can see that an employment relation exists when:

“Is the work normally performed by paid employees? Does the business or organisation need this work to be done? The more integral the work is to the function of the business, the more likely it is that an employment relationship could be found.”

This isn’t rocket science.

When you want people to come and work for your company, you should pay them. As has been pointed out by plenty of others over the last few years.

Earlier this year, the Federal Circuit Court fined Melbourne-based Crocmedia $24,000 over their use of unpaid interns.

According to The Age, Fair Work Australia told the court that “because the pair had performed productive work for the company that was not a formal part of their university studies they were entitled to be paid minimum wages”.

The Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, was also quoted in the article, saying, “When a worker moves beyond merely learning and observing and starts assisting with business outputs and productivity, workplace laws dictate that the worker must be paid minimum employee entitlements”.

In handing down the punishment, Judge Reithmuller wrote, “Profiting from ‘volunteers’ is not acceptable conduct within the industrial relations scheme applicable in Australia”.

So there it is.

If what you are offering is not associated directly with a particular course of study at a particular educational institution, and what the “intern” will be doing is fulfilling the role of what would ordinarily be a paid position, you are exploiting people. You are possibly acting outside the law.

You are a cancer.

In Japan, if you want to travel between cities you head to the train station and board the ever-efficient Shinkansen bullet train.

In New South Wales, if you want to travel between the state’s two biggest cities – Sydney and Newcastle – you head to the train station and board the not-quite-as-efficient Central Coast and Newcastle intercity train service, affectionately known as the Shitkansen.


A single trip on the Shitkansen is priced at $8.10 and takes approximate two and three-quarter hours if you travel the full distance.

Cheap travel for boomers? As long as it's a one-way ticket to the camps.

Cheap travel for boomers? As long as it’s a one-way ticket to the camps.

If you have an Opal card and leave before 6.00am, after 6.30pm or between 7.30am and 4.00pm the trip is priced at $5.67. It’s a nice discount if you are willing to live with a less convenient travel time.

The other bonus for Opal card holders is that if you catch it – or another train – more than eight times, the ninth trip and onwards is free. And free is good.


The original Shitkansen were designated as ‘V’ sets. The V stands for ‘vacuum toilet’; they were the first rolling stock on the state rail network to carry such a luxury.

The distinctive silver box design of the Shitkansen sits in stark contrast to the sleek, aerodynamic shapes of similar trains on overseas networks. Japan’s Shinkansen sports is famous ‘duck-billed platypus’ nose on the front car, and Europe’s TGV/Eurostar trains also have unique shapes to them that give off an aura of speed and modernity.

The external and internal design of the Shitkansen train dates back to the 1970s, when the trains first debuted on the NSW rail network. In fact the exterior has undergone precisely no changes since the first-generation Shitkansen hit the rails.

A V-Set Shitkansen arrives at Broadmeadow early on a Monday morning

A V-Set Shitkansen arrives at Broadmeadow early on a Monday morning

Internally, the typical-of-the-time Institution Green and Biege colour scheme was kept in place until late 2013 when a refresh of the range saw the introduction of “Bush Plum” purple vinyl seats and carpets in a number of carriages. The new fitout gives the feeling you’re travelling inside a Cadbury chocolate bar, or perhaps the CarsGuide office. It’s different, but not necessarily an improvement.

The Shitkansen is available in either an eight or four car variant, depending on what time you travel.


Sitting down on the Shitkansen is dangerous

Sitting down on the Shitkansen is dangerous

The Spartans were known for making do with very little. It’s a quality they undoubtedly picked up from NSW TrainLink.

There’s no club car, no trolly service, no onboard entertainment system, (other passengers excepted) and no electricity – despite it being the train’s propellant of choice.

What you do get is a functional but not overly pleasant seat; the sort you would be ill-advised to subject to inspection under an ultra-violet light.

The seat in front of you provides a retractable foot-rest, although finding a comfortable seating position is a challenge whether it is used or not.

The numerous windows adorning either side of the carriage allow the passage of natural light, albeit filtered through a decent film of grime or any number of unique etchings installed by the train’s artistic community.

In the words of Mr Squiggle: Upside down, upside down

In the words of Mr Squiggle: Upside down, upside down


The Shitkansen is an electric train.

Each four car set comprises two driving cars and two trailer cars. This allocation is obviously doubled when doubled into an eight-car train.

Exact power figures are unknown, but given how the Shitkansen drives, power output is likely to be a modest figure.

The ’sprint’ from 0-100km/h is best described as…not quick. We would go as far to suggest that it is more likely the heat death of the universe would occur before a Shitkansen’s velocity broke into the triple digits.

As is true with most machines, the Shitkansen today are slower today compared to when they first entered service. Even the more modern ‘OSCAR’ versions of the Shitkansen are slower than previous services. Make of that what you will.


The most obvious safety feature of the Shitkansen is the regularity at which it stops operating normally in adverse weather conditions. A hint of rain at the Shitkansen often finds itself grinding to a halt.

Think of it like an aeroplane – take offs are optional, landing is compulsory. The best way to avoid an accident in less than optimal conditions is to simply not operate in those conditions.

Locked off emergency brakes.

Locked off emergency brakes.

Other than that, for passengers there are no airbags and no seat belts. In the event of the train departing the tracks, there is not a lot to stop you getting thrown around the carriage.

There is an emergency brake switch located in each carriage, however on our train we noticed it was bolted closed – making its operation in an emergency problematic.

The other safety-related aspect of the Shitkansen trip are the other passengers.

There are jokes about the demographics and socio-economic status of the passengers often found onboard this particular train we could make. However, we are going to just simply say if you are wanting to see a demonstration of the effects assorted mind-altering substances can have on people, the Shitkansen is a cost-effective way to do it.


Straight up: this is not the most comfortable form of transport you will ever come across.

Cleanliness is far from Shitkanseness

Cleanliness is far from Shitkanseness

The experience of the Shitkansen trip between Newcastle and Sydney is best described as sitting somewhere between a long-haul international flight in cattle-class and crowding into an all-too-small car with the entire family for a trip up the coast.

There is never enough leg room and you cannot recline the seats. Standing up to alight the train at the end of the journey is a glorious experience.

The train itself, thankfully, sticks to the rails quite well. Some jostling can occur at higher speeds which bring to mind feelings of being on a boat in choppy seas, but overall things are quite smooth.

It is entirely possible to nap through the entire trip, which makes the nearly 180-minute travel time more bearable. That said, you neck may not appreciate that as much as the rest of you, so bring a pillow to ease the pain.


Overall, the Sydney to Newcastle train is a triumph of function over form, with a healthy dose of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ added in.

For a single person travelling between either city, it is cost-effective and, to a certain extent, relatively timely. However, once your trip involved a second or third person, take the car. It’s just generally nicer.

Three stars.

I pay money, where is train?

I pay money, where is train?

UPDATE: Noble Patriot @rpy has advised my notations about off-peak Opal fares were slightly incorrect. He is a massive prick.

I know, I know.

It’s been a very long time – quite some months – since I put anything up on here.

There is a reason for that, and one that isn’t laziness…mostly.

The start of this year brought with it my final semester of tertiary study. After making the jump in 2011 to go to university on a full time basis I finally finished.

My graduation was not all that long ago, actually; just at the start of October.

Shockingly – quite shockingly – I actually did work this semester. It’s amazing what happens when you actually apply yourself to what you’re doing, and don’t just skim through with the notion that you’re actually pretty clever and don’t need to work.

That got me pass marks, and a couple of credits. My final semester was all HDs. I do’nt mean to gloat, but I was pretty stoked with that. Actual application of brain yields results. If only that lesson had sunk in sooner, eh?

Anyway there was that. What followed was the post-university job hunt. That desperate quest to prove to yourself that what you’ve spent the last few years doing was not in vein and will set you on the path to doing the things you want to be doing.

Job hunting is a depressingly unpleasant experience.

“Hello there faceless HR person, I’m a smart chap with a sparkling personality not a single character flaw to be seen that would think it ever so sporting if you would allow me to throw myself on my knees in front of you and beg for the opportunity to work long hours doing menial tasks and be paid in something that might have once resembled Australian dollars. What do you say?”

Often the answer would be a polite “no, thanks”. The majority of the time there wouldn’t even be an answer.

You’re left to wonder if anyone actually bothered to read your grammatically immaculate grovelling or if it was printed out then run straight through the shredder. I imagine the latter. HR people seem like the type to have a machine with that function.

So that wasn’t fun.

Then there was dealing with Centrelink. Holy moly.

I will say however, that every time I got to deal with an actual person, they were lovely and helpful and sorted me out. The system it self, on the other hand, makes you want to get intimately acquainted with the business end of a semi-automatic weapon.

I filled out approximately a novella’s worth of forms just to transfer from my student payment to The Dole. I haven’t experienced it, but I’m sure getting a catheda run up my urethra would have been more enjoyable.

Declare this! Do you have one of these? Sorry, you’re a what? You live where? How many shirts do you own?

You can fill out this form online, except this one section which must be chiseled into a stone tablet and handed to the high priest on the second Tuesday before Lent when the sun is just between the two trees on the eastern side of Crete.

Thankfully, this experience was short lived.

I finished my coursework in June and at the end of August the stars aligned. All those writing all those job applications that were instantly shredded paid dividends because someone eventually read one, liked it, and decided to offer me a job.

So all day now I sub-edit the words of other people – and sometimes write my own – crop photos so they fit the odd confines of our CMS, and sit around waiting for videos to encode amongst other things.

The job is good – I’m really enjoying it. The only downside is that it’s in Sydney while I and still living in Newcastle.

So I have become intimately equated with the Newcastle to Sydney train, affectionately known as the Shitkansen. Come the new year, I will be reevaluating my living arrangements, that’s for sure.

So that’s where I’ve been. Fun, eh?

Our company is a leading media marketing company known for developing high-calibre professionals for an engaged social world. We’ve been around for since the time of Methuselah, hosting all manner of events from webinars to blogosphere summits to inspirational talks. Our culture is that of what you would typically see in a start-up. We’re fun, but serious; casual, but don’t muck around.

Because our company has been such an astounding success, we’ve been able to carefully craft out a junior professional internship position that we think you would be absolutely perfect for.

Coming into the office 4 days a week between 8am and 6pm, you’ll be responsible for ensuring that our company is making all our clients happy. In a typical day you’ll answer phones, write emails, update our social media presence, meet with clients, pitch brand strategy, collaborate with external contractors, create marketing campaigns, write engaging content for our awesome company blog, field media inquiries, have a hand in creating amazing posters and videos, make coffee runs (our nearby coffee shop is DA BOMB), source new clients, manage financial projections and, most importantly, learn heaps.

In order to really stand out in what is sure to be an ultra- competitive field of candidates, you’ll need to make sure you meet the following criteria:

  • At least 15 years experience working in media, preferably at an agency but also places like Fairfax or News.
  • Be super-familiar with the custom-built software our office runs on.
  • Have been listed in the credits for at least 4 Academy Award nominated films.
  • Be a close, personal friend of the company director.
  • Be outgoing and fun to be around.
  • Be a chartered accountant.
  • Have a comprehensive show reel of your work to date (Flash video only, 2Mb maximum file size. Thanks!).
  • Be a self-starter.
  • Have already been told by us that you have the job.
  • Have a sense of humour!
  • Close attention to detail.
  • Have worked in small teams, large teams and individually on all manner of projects ranging from the chook shed at your parents’ to multi-million dollar government infrastructure projects.

If you think you meet all this, and are in the position to be able to work 10-hour days without compensation (I know, it sucks but there is a possibility that we might give you a little money if you hang around and really impress us) then please send through a charming email, intriguing cover letter, your current CV and a working draft of the next Great Australian Novel to

This piece was originally published on the previous version of this site, which is more than likely lost to the annals of history because I have absolutely no idea how to internet properly. It was originally published in November 2013 and is republished now because I thought it was funny.

The digital age is well and truly upon us, and there are thousands of businesses and individuals out there who have yet to grasp the power that is sitting at their fingertips.

The rise of social media in a connected society offers everyone on the planet a chance to expand their community beyond what they currently know and gives them the opportunity to pivot their local knowledge into a massive online village the like of which no one has ever had the ability to fully comprehend.

So how do you get some of that action?  How do you leverage your business into a social cloud in order to tap a potential market of billions of engaged consumers?

Well, I am here to help.

Hi there.  My name is Bernie and I am going to show you how you can create for yourself an engaged audience that will, just by its very existence, boost your SEO rankings in such a way that they will be immune to any changes in Google’s rankings algorithm.  All you need to do is sign up for my online course.

For the almost criminally cheap price of 4x $600 instalments (paid in one lump sum), I will give you the tools you need to unlock the social cloud and make yourself an online engagement star.

How does it work?

Generating engagement in the social cloud, which then leads back to networked consumers visiting your website, is all about surfacing content.

Once you learn the secrets to surfacing the right content, you will soon find yourself on a hyperfast path to becoming a leading thinkfluencer within your now global community of consumers, who are hanging on your every engaging communication.

What is a “thinkfluencer? It sounds like something you just made up!

Firstly, stop the prescriptivism.  English is an ever-evolving language and it is only natural that you will come across some new words that may, at first glance, frighten you with their unbridled potential and raw power.

Power on the social web is derived from two separate yet equally important things.  Being considered a “thought-leader” and your ability to “influence” those around you.  Combining them effectively is considered by every expert in this field to be the holy grail of effective, leveraged engagement.

So what do you become if you bring the power of thought leadership and influence to your social conversations online? A thinkfluencer; a person that no one can ignore.

In essence, you become the conversation.  And that, my friends, is the ultimate networked power.

OK. So what will your course cover?

So, so much.  The variety of topics covered in my course will blow you away.  This is reason why I should probably be thrown in gaol for offering it at the ridiculously cheap price I am.  Here’s just a taste of what you will learn on your way to becoming a global thinkfluencer with my course:

  • ROI: Real Online Interactivity – these are the secrets to creating truly memorable content.
  • Press Releases – How to pivot your newfound social cloud power back into the traditional media for additional traction.
  • Auditing – Making sure you continue to smash those KPIs.
  • Monitoring – You can’t spell analytics without anal and that’s what you’ll become once we show you how to look at a variety of numbers designed specifically to measure the effectiveness of your conversations.
  • SEO/SMO – Social Engagement Orifices and Social Management Organisations. Knowing when and how to deploy these tools is a fundamental skill of the cloud paradigm.
  •  Strategies to ensure that month after month you maintain your position as a key thinkfluencer within your global community or local industry.
  • Revenue models for the digital conversation matrix.
  • Measurement of your influence circle against industry standard metrics.  This ensures not know that your strategies are actioning their objectives, but also works as a check to ensure the accuracy of your analytics as part of the open and transparent auditing process.

There’s many, many more, but I don’t want to be giving it all away just now.

Also, if you sign up for our postgraduate, ongoing consultation service (a pathetic $200/hr for a weekly 4 hour catch up, billed annually), you’ll receive a special set of courses targeted at specific social conversation platforms. Including:

  • Reddit – It Can Solve Crimes, Imagine What It Can Do For Your Business
  • Advanced Bitstrips – Captivating Cartoons Convert Conversations To Cash
  • Hashtag Games – Replace A Word In a Book Title, Replace A Lose With A Win
  • And many, many more.

And what are your credentials, exactly?

I have been involved in the Internet and engagement with global audiences for over half my life.  In that time I have amassed an impressive collection of social media accounts and online personas.

Since 2008, when I first started analysing the power of thinkfluencing and devising this life-changing course, the size of my conversation audience has expanded in a way that would boggle most mathematicians.

The important thing is, getting the wrong advice in social cloud engagement could cost you your life.

Do it once. Do it right. Do it with me.

Get in contact and soon you will be on your way to becoming the next big thinkfluencer.