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Placement payments a step in the right direction, but not good enough

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read
Placement Payments A Step In The Right Direction But Not Good Enough

Unpaid student placements have been the source of much debate over the years. Often affecting essential jobs, this exploitative system is finally seeing some change with government intervention. However, students argue it’s not good enough.

Announced recently by the government, the upcoming federal budget will include cost-of-living support for teaching, nursing, and social work students undergoing placements.

According to a release from the federal government, Australians studying to be a teacher, a nurse, a midwife or a social worker, equating to around 68,000 eligible higher education students and over 5,000 VET students each year, will be eligible for $319.50 per week payments during their clinical and professional placement periods.


This initiative is slated to commence on 1 July 2025, with hopes the additional support will help combat skills shortages across these vital professions.

“Teachers give our children the best start in life; they deserve a fair start to their career. We’re proud to be backing the hard work and aspiration of Australians looking to better themselves by studying at university,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

“We’re funding support for placements so our future nurses, teachers and social workers can gain the experience they need. We’re making HECS fairer so no one is held back by student debt. And we’re expanding access to university in our regions and suburbs to make sure no Australian is left behind.”

While this is certainly a step in the right direction, there are concerns as the payments are well below the minimum wage. Some are calling the announcement a “slap in the face”.

Siena Hopper, a representative of advocacy group Students Against Placement Poverty, discussed her views with ABC News, noting that it’s not nearly enough.

“Students doing teaching, social work and nursing are getting paid 35 per cent below the poverty line to do essential work. There’s no other industry where you do not learn on the job. There’s no reason that people should be getting paid $8 an hour for essential training … It’s pretty much a slap in the face,” she said.

“People just feel disrespected ... not to mention the dozens of other sectors that aren’t receiving any funding at all. At the moment, it also doesn’t mention anything about international students being included, and it’s also means tested, which is horrible. We shouldn’t have to prove that we are poor enough just to get scraps that won’t even cover most people’s rent.”

The rent argument is a solid one, especially considering the median rent price of a Sydney home is $750 per week.

The exploitative nature of student placements was discussed recently by HR Leader. Australian Services Union NSW and ACT secretary Angus McFarland said: “Placement poverty among social work students is rife and must end. The very students who are dedicated to helping society’s most vulnerable are facing disadvantage and financial hardship themselves as a result of unpaid work placements.”

“Students can’t afford to complete an already expensive degree and forgo their paid job for months. Unpaid placements are an issue of poverty, equity and gender equality – most social work students are women, and many are mature aged and have caring responsibilities.”

While this new initiative will help, it won’t solve the issue. Nurses, for example, are required to complete 400 hours of clinical placement. This equates to around six weeks of being paid almost a third of the national minimum wage of $882.80, based on a week of 38 ordinary hours ($23.23 per hour).

The persistence of student poverty only serves to disadvantage Australia as a whole, as these crucial professions will deter people from completing study. The government needs to re-evaluate its plan if it is to keep students out of poverty.



Training is the process of enhancing a worker's knowledge and abilities to do a certain profession. It aims to enhance trainees' work behaviour and performance on the job.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.