The ALRC provides opportunities for students to work alongside legal staff as interns. Interns work on a voluntary basis. Most interns will work for one day a week for a semester (approximately 16 weeks) or full-time for a number of weeks during university vacations. Internships can be organised for differing periods of time depending upon the needs of the student and the Commission. The ALRC recognises that participating in the Semesters 1 and 2 one day per week programs is not feasible for interstate students. For that reason, the ALRC will give preference to interstate applicants, and those attending institutions outside the Sydney metropolitan region, for the full-time three week summer program.

Interns are supervised by a staff member, and undertake research work determined by the abilities of the student and the needs of the Commission. Internships provide an opportunity for students to increase their awareness of law reform issues while also allowing the Commission to benefit through the application of the student’s research and writing skills.

Selection of interns

Cut-off dates for applications for internships will be approximately:

  • First semester – early February
  • Second Semester – late June
  • Summer – late October

Exact cut-off dates for each intake are advertised on the ALRC website.

Applications for regular semester and summer internships will be considered as part of a selection process conducted soon after the cut-off date for each intake. The selection committee and interview panel will consist of the Executive Director and at least one legal staff member. The following criteria will be considered:

  • course of study;
  • years of study completed;
  • subjects completed and grade achieved;
  • other academic qualifications; and
  • related work experience and interests.

The number of places available during each intake will be determined after consultation with Commissioners and reference staff, and consideration of the availability of resources (such as adequate supervision, desks, computers).

While the ALRC may accept institutional placements by agreement, it will generally only accept students who have been chosen as part of the ALRC’s selection process. The ALRC may agree to support a selected student who also wishes to undertake an institutional placement by providing appropriate supervision and completing relevant paperwork on behalf of the student.

The ALRC accepts students in their penultimate or final year of an undergraduate or graduate law degree, from any university including overseas institutions.

The ALRC will also consider applications from post-graduate students in law or any discipline related to a current inquiry (eg medicine if the ALRC is undertaking an inquiry in relation to health and the law, or criminology if the ALRC is working on an inquiry relating to sentencing).

The ALRC does not accept interns where the purpose of the internship would be to gain practical work experience required for professional admission as a solicitor or barrister, such as is required by students attending the College of Law (see School Student and Legal Practice Work Experience Policy).

Overseas applicants 

Applications from overseas students will generally be seeking an internship that extends beyond the normal one day a week or four weeks full-time placement. Applications will be considered on an individual basis. The following considerations will apply:

  • the interests and experience of the student in comparison to the work of the Commission during the intended placement;
  • the language skills of the student;
  • the ability of the student to contribute meaningfully to the Commission’s work;
  • availability of resources at the time of the intended placement.

The Commission should make every effort to provide a quick response to overseas applicants.

Responsibilities of the Commission

The Commission, in agreeing to accept interns for placement, sets itself forth as a professional role-model for students and agrees to facilitate the learning process by acting as a supervisor and mentor to the intern.

The Research Manager, under the supervision of the Executive Director, has responsibility for the internship program, including the selection of interns, provision of support for interns throughout the placement, and generally ensuring that the internship placement program operates effectively for the Commission and interns.

A Placement Coordinator will be the first point of contact for all interns and will ensure that Commissioners and supervisors are aware of the date of commencement of the intern. The Placement Coordinator will also arrange for a desk, telephone and computer access for each intern. In most cases the Research Manager will be the Placement Coordinator.

Interns are to be given information regarding occupational health & safety issues, first aid and evacuation procedures, preferably at induction.

The Commission may, in its absolute discretion, choose to end the placement at any time.

Responsibilities of the interns supervisor

Supervisors have the role of supervising the intern’s placement on a daily basis. They are the first point of contact if there are any concerns about the day to day work.

Consideration should be given to the tasks that will be given to the intern prior to his or her commencement. Supervisors should endeavour to provide as wide a variety of work experiences for the student as is possible. The workload of the reference teams will make this more difficult at certain times – working with various team members may be another way to provide diversity. The allotted tasks should be monitored closely throughout the placement and consideration given to the skills and knowledge of the intern.

It is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that the intern:

  • is provided with an overview of the reference subject matter;
  • is introduced to all members of the team;
  • has adequate and appropriate work tasks, either directly from the supervisor or from another team member;
  • is assisted to identify appropriate sources to enable them to complete allocated tasks;
  • clearly understands the expectations of the placement and each work task;
  • is included in team discussions, activities and consultations wherever possible and appropriate;
  • is given continuing feedback in order to maximise performance;
  • is given comprehensive feedback at conclusion of the program.

Supervisors are to ensure that interns are given regular feedback.

Where the intern is undertaking an institutional placement, and the institution requires an evaluation/assessment of the intern’s performance, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to properly document and evaluate the intern’s progress.

If supervisors have concerns about the work, behaviour or attendance of the intern, these concerns should be raised directly with the intern. If the concerns continue, the supervisor should discuss the issues with the Placement Coordinator or the Executive Director.

At the conclusion of all placements it is the responsibility of the supervisor to liaise with the relevant Commissioner to provide a written reference for the intern – generally this is signed by the President or the relevant Commissioner. Supervisors (or other staff who have worked closely with the intern) may act as an oral referee upon the request of an intern if the supervisor feels comfortable with this arrangement.

Responsibilities of the intern

Interns are required to adhere to the policies and procedures of the Australian Law Reform Commission and to conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times. They must ensure that they attend the Commission during regular business hours and that all work assigned is completed in a timely and efficient manner.

Interns will be asked to sign an agreement to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities, including: the possible sensitive information they may be privy to during the internship; their obligations to not disclose or use sensitive information outside of the Commission; the terms of the ALRC Internet and Email Policy; and to abide by any arrangements in place for access to the ALRC office.

All interns must notify the Commission if they will be late or cannot attend the placement. If the intern is having difficulty with any assigned duties, it is his/her responsibility to inform the relevant supervisor and attempt to resolve the problem.

Where the intern has a need to alter the regular attendance pattern (eg change of day), this should be discussed with the supervisor and Placement Coordinator. Changes will be approved where there are sufficient resources (eg supervision and desk space) on the proposed alternative day.

It should be noted that the ALRC is unable to provide workers’ compensation insurance for interns. Potential interns should ensure that they are covered by their institution's insurance policy for the time that they spend at the ALRC.

Activities throughout the internship

To enhance the intern’s understanding of their position at the Commission, interns will be provided with a general overview of the operations of the Commission during their first few days of the placement. Interns will also be provided with a library orientation and an introductory seminar on research sources commonly used at the Commission.

Wherever possible, time will be made during the internship for interns to meet with Commissioners for an informal discussion on the internship experience, and provide interns with an opportunity to ask questions regarding the Commission or legal careers in general.

Interns are encouraged to participate in team meetings and to attend Sydney-based consultations or meetings with stakeholders wherever this is appropriate. Team members should provide interns with information regarding these activities, even where the activities fall on a day that differs from the regular attendance day of the intern.

The Placement Coordinator will meet with the intern to discuss the progress of the placement about a third of the way through the placement. This meeting provides an opportunity for interns to discuss any concerns – although any major concerns should be raised with the supervisor or Placement Coordinator immediately (see ‘Resolving Problems’ below). A further meeting will be held at the conclusion of the placement to discuss the intern’s experience.

Resolving problems

Occasionally an intern may have a problem or concern about their work, their level of supervision, or their interaction with someone in the office. Interns are encouraged to approach their supervisor to discuss any issues of concern and resolve them as quickly as possible.

Where the intern does not feel comfortable approaching the supervisor in relation to a particular issue, they can instead approach the Placement Coordinator, or the Executive Director with responsibility for interns. Discussions with the Placement Coordinator or Executive Director can be held on a confidential basis at the intern’s request.

After discussions with the Placement Coordinator or Executive Director, if the intern is not satisfied with the Commission’s attempts to resolve a concern he or she may take the matter up with the President.

Published on 30 June 2009. Last modified on 13 August 2012.