International student workers deserve better than this.

This 7 Elevenweek’s exposure of the illegal work practices in Australian 7-Eleven stores struck a very raw nerve in me.  Having worked most of my career in the employment sector for tertiary students and graduates, I find this
exploitation of international students abhorrent.

Unfortunately the news of such mistreatment was not a total shock to me as over the years I’ve heard other stories from international students about low pay, no pay, long hours and other forms of workplace abuse at the hands of unscrupulous and manipulative ’employers’. Thankfully these stories have not been numerous but the fact that they occur at all is of grave concern.

A quick search on the billionaire owners of the 7-ELEVEN franchise in Australia informs us that they are on BRW’s top 200 rich list and reveals dozens of articles praising their business acumen and labelling them as ‘successful’.

The word successful also appears a lot in sport. Do we admire the elite athlete whose success is the result of years of self-discipline, training and playing by the rules…… or the one who has no problem using performance enhancing drugs to make it to the top of their game by cheating?

How do we define ‘successful’ in the business world? Is wealth the overriding measure of success? Does the fact that you underpay and mistreat people to gain your wealth and cheat your way to the top matter?

I think it does.

The crazy thing about this is that companies don’t need to break the law to be successful! For years I recruited for a major Australian company who actively sought to employ hundreds of international students. The students were paid very well, received training and mentoring, reported that they were happy in their jobs and recommended their employer to other students. As many legitimately successful employers will testify, good treatment of employees goes a long way toward a happy and healthy workplace and positive PR for the company.

The Careers and Employment Service at Griffith offers workshops for international students, designed to assist them to understand and negotiate the Australian work environment, know their rights and obligations and prepare them for finding work.  These are held in O-Week and the first weeks of each semester and we encourage students to attend. You can look for workshop dates and also access valuable work-related information on our website.Elite-athlete-swimming

If you believe you have legitimate concerns about your treatment in the workplace, please register on the Australian Government’s Fair Work website and explain your situation.

Finally, to all the would-be ‘successful’ employers looking to break workplace law, I say: Play Fair or Don’t Dare.

Wishing everyone a happy workplace!

Jenny O’Neill

Manager, Employer Liaison and Graduate Promotion

Careers and Employment Service

Griffith University



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