Connect50 Advocacy Project

This was the first session at the Advocacy Sector Conversations forum held at Queen Victoria Women’s Centre on 14 November 2019.


Connect50 is an exciting project that is offering university and TAFE students with disability, an internship opportunity within Victorian disability advocacy organisations. The project provides 10 placements across metro and regional Victoria at no cost to host organisations. Emma Henningsen, the Project Manager at Australian Disability Network, explains how it works.



Links to resources mentioned in this presentation can be found at the bottom of this post.

Transcript & Audio


For our first speaker today I would like to invite Emma Henningsen, from Australian Network on Disability to speak about the Connect50 Advocacy Project.

Good morning I’m Emma Henningsen, I’m from Australian Network on Disability (AND).  I’m the Connect50 Advocacy Project Manager there.  We on the Australian Network on Disability believe people with disability are skilled and capable contributors, socially and economically.  They’re entitled to equitable opportunities in society.

AND is a national for purpose member based organisation with a mission to create a disability confident Australia.  To that end, we work with Australian employers to ensure that they’re equipped with the knowledge and resources that they need to be able to welcome people with disability and be inclusive across all aspects of their business.

We assist organisations to develop practical strategies that build their disability confidence through the delivery of unique tools, services, programs and publications.  We build the capacity of organisations to welcome people with disabilities.

As employees, customers and stakeholders we connect organisations to share best practice and to learn from one another as well as connecting employers with skilled and talented people with disability.

We also enable organisations to check where they’re at to identify their strengths and areas for opportunity using tools such as our access and inclusion index.

We have two programs that we use to connect employers with students and job seekers with disability.  The PACE Mentoring Program and Stepping Into Internships.

AND has been running Stepping Into since 2005 and has placed over 1,000 University students with disability into internship opportunities across Australia.

AND programs are designed to be mutually beneficial.  Students with disability have the opportunity to gain paid work experience and the supervisors and teams working directly with those interns are supported to learn how to best support people with disability by implementing work place adjustments.

The value of these types of programs is reflected in the statistics of our grad employment outcomes for students with disability who undertake internships.  A 2018 survey of Stepping Into interns found that four months after graduating 80% of those interns were employed compared to 58% who didn’t undertake any internship at all.

It’s worth noting the broader influence that participating in internship programs can have on an organisation.  The impact can be seen in changes in staff attitudes, in policy and practices, in increased staff confidence about supporting or managing a team member with disability and improving a staff member’s ability to ask and an organisations capacity to provide work place adjustments.

Based on the success of ‘Stepping Into’ the Victorian State Government selected AND to deliver the Connect50 Advocacy Project with the aim to empower disability advocacy organisations to cultivate inclusive workplaces, to further realise the benefits of the workforce that includes people with disability and to broaden the talent pool for future recruitment.

The Connect50 Advocacy Project is part of the Victorian Governments Disability Advocacy Futures Plan 2018 to 2020 and is designed to support disability advocacy organisations to employ people with disability.  There is no cost for a student or an organisation to participate in the project.

Connect50 Advocacy internships run for 152 hours, which works out to be about four weeks full time, and are designed to be structured around the winter and summer semester breaks.  The project is open to University students in their penultimate or final year of University or studying a Certificate 4 at Tafe and identifies with having a disability.

The internships are paid opportunities with the Victorian Government covering the cost of the student’s wages for 152 hours.  This is where you come in.  Connect50 Advocacy Internships are demand led.

The advocacy organisation identifies a potential need so a short term project, an event that needs planning, a team that wants to engage an intern with disability and provides AND with a position description outlining the essential requirements of the role.

We share this position description with students via our social media and the education providers that we’ve built relationships with through our previous programs.

Students that apply directly to AND for the program we can complete screening interviews for all eligible students that apply for the projects and aim to provide the advocacy organisation with two to three intern candidates as a short list for you to interview.

Connect50 Advocacy Internships are highly supported and include pre internship disability confidence and awareness training for the supervisor and the manager along with a Connect50 Managers Guide.  There are also regular check ins throughout the internship for both the student and their supervisor and at the end there’s an evaluation report provided.

In addition to the internship as part of participating in the project AND would complete a dignified access checklist of the site that an intern is located and will undertake a high level review of the organisations current recruitment process to identify any potential unintended barriers or stopping points for people with disability when they’re applying for your roles.

We have ten fully funded internship opportunities available and have already received some interest and commitments for the project.  We’re currently seeking expressions of interest for the winter 2020 and summer 2020 to 2021 periods.

If your organisation has the capacity to support a student intern and a project or role that might benefit from an additional set of hands I’d encourage you to reach out as soon as possible.

I’ve placed some brochures on tables.  I also have cards.  I’m going to be here for a little while longer if you’d like to speak with me through one of the breaks.

Thank you very much for your time.

Connect 50 info (off-site)

Date published:
Thu 14th Nov, 2019