Humanitarian internships uniting students and changing lives

The twists and turns of life have taken Griffith University students John Akol Maluk and Jennefer Simon along very similar pathways since they fled the violent conflict and political unrest of their native South Sudan.

For each of their families, the first step to safety and a new future came through refugee camps in Kenya. While Jennefer was little more than five years of age at the time, it was here that Akol completed Years 1-8 of his schooling before moving to Australia.

Their paths would cross again and they would eventually meet at Griffith University where they enrolled to study. In July, they both graduated, Akol with a Master of Public Administration and Jennefer a Bachelor of Business.

To complete their serendipitous story, Akol and Jennefer also share the distinction of being the first students to complete Griffith University’s Humanitarian Internship Program, after their selection for and completion of the pilot.

The Program is run by Griffith’s Careers and Employment Service / Student Diversity and Inclusion in association with the Federal Government’s Department of Social Services (DSS). It aims to improve employment outcomes for students who originally arrived in the country through Australia’s refugee and humanitarian program. The opportunity comes in the form of a 6-week, hands-on internship at the busy state office of the DSS.

Akol’s story

“I’m optimistic about the future after the internship,” Akol (35) said.

John Akol (right) at his graduation in July

“The experience has made me confident about going for job interviews. I can now show I have relevant experience along with my university qualifications.”

Akol initially completed a Bachelor of Government and International Relations at Griffith Business School, and built on this by studying a Master of Public Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Analysis. He is currently completing a Graduate Certificate in Integrity and Anti-Corruption. “Through the internship I could apply the skills I learned during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies.”

Akol and Jennefer gained public service work experience, operating across a number of different teams in the Queensland State Office of the DSS. They also benefited from the guidance of mentors, training workshops and from extensions to their roles after the internship period had elapsed.

Jennefer’s story

Jennefer (22), a Human Resource major at Griffith Business School, found out about the internship program while networking at a Stepping Out Program event at university.

“The flexibility meant I could still study while gaining paid work experience,” she said.

“I was able to implement specific skills from the classroom on a number of projects including a redevelopment of the induction/orientation process for the Transitions Centre of Expertise.”

“I have grown so much as an individual and I am very much looking forward to starting my professional career with the skills I have gained through the internship.


Applications open shortly for the 2019 Humanitarian Internship Program, which again offers two 6-week work placements at the DSS offices in Brisbane for students who meet the eligibility criteria.

The Humanitarian Internship Program aims to attract and develop high quality students who will contribute effectively to the work of DSS and the Australian Public Service. It supports students in expanding their formal qualifications and personal capabilities, and provides a range and variety of informal learning and developmental experiences.

For Humanitarian Internship Program (HIP) 2019 intake, students can apply via Griffith University CareerBoard.

Griffith students can contact Tina Donaghy at [email protected] or Troy Dobinson Manager, Careers and Employment Service [email protected] for more information.