25 years partnering with our nation’s policymakers

24 September 2018

Imagine being asked by a politician, a federal government department, an embassy, an international NGO or one of the nation's top cultural institutions to do research on issues such as road deaths, cybersecurity, domestic violence, climate change, water resources or Indigenous policy.

Now imagine you are then asked to compile a report, based on your research findings, that could shape policy discussions and debate on major issues of concern for Australia.

Over the past 25 years, of the University's cornerstone internship programs, the Australian National Internships Program (ANIP) has done precisely this.

Successful students who apply for the internships are granted semester-long placements, during which they complete a research project for their host institution and earn a course credit while they're at it.

Over the program's successful 25-year history, ANIP has developed its own positive reputation and standing within Australia's parliament and the public service, making it far more than just a work placement, a research project and an academic course on applied policy research.

The program not only gives students an unparalleled workplace experience, but it also allows the institutions a chance to get to know the students, and the students to network with potential would-be employers after they graduate.

Before it came to ANU, ANIP's predecessor was launched in the Victorian parliament by Professor John Power, who later became the program's inaugural director when it moved to ANU in 1993. In developing the design for ANIP, Professor Power drew on his travels in America where he had examined leading US policy internships, as well as drawing on the parliamentary internship programs of Westminster and the European Union.

The program's current Director, Associate Professor Laurence Brown, says Professor Power and ANU were lucky to have non-partisan support across the political divide, and this support continues today.

"The program enjoys support not only from parliamentarians and particularly the Presiding Officers, but also the departments of the Senate and the House of Representatives - that support is really crucial for the program."

Professor Brown says the distinctive and successful part of the program that sets it apart from other internships is the fact that the program isn't just a work experience placement.

"What was distinctive about what John did was centring an internship on a research project, so, as I understand from the American model, was having the students do a commissioned research project.

"So the value of ANIP and why it has thrived for so long is because of that structure that John designed."

According to Professor Brown, by the end of ANIP's silver jubilee year, more than 2,000 students will have completed the program.

"As a non-partisan program, it brings students who normally wouldn't have a pathway, into these institutions based on merit. It has always been a national and international program," he says, adding that many of the program's graduates hold distinguished senior positions in overseas governments such as Fiji's current Attorney General, Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

More recent examples include students looking at climate change mitigation in Queensland, he said.

Indigenous policy has also been a very popular topic for students to research.

"Indigenous policy has always been important and today is even more important because we have Indigenous parliamentarians who are very strong supporters of the program. We also have a range of cultural policy and economic policy research projects."

Students have been prominent across all academic disciplines, he says. 

"ANIP has also been used for cultural diplomacy, and that's one of the reasons why the embassies today are such strong supporters of the program. They're one of our largest groups of hosts, in fact."

Professor Brown says these days students feel like they need to do a dozen internships to get the experience, describing it as a type of "arms race for internships", even though that's not the actual case.

"With ANIP, what we're trying to say is you don't need to do ten internships. What you need to do is one or two that add value to your CV and enable you to develop specific skills."

For more information on ANIP or how to apply for one of their internships visit http://anip.anu.edu.au/.