State of Victoria pledges relief payments for foreign students

State’s contribution contrasts with Canberra’s ‘baffling and callous’ approach, critics say

四月 29, 2020

Victoria is the latest Australian jurisdiction to announce a hardship fund for international students, unveiling a A$45 million (£24 million) package for foreign tertiary students.

The state government says up to 40,000 students will receive emergency relief payments of up to A$1,100.

The payments, which will require co-contributions from university hardship funds, are aimed at foreign students left struggling because of coronavirus-related job losses.

“International students give so much to Victoria,” said state trade minister Martin Pakula. “It’s only fair we support them in their hour of need. This virus doesn’t discriminate and neither do we.”

The federal government has courted bitter criticism by denying international students eligibility to some A$200 billion worth of job subsidy and income support payments. While the government’s supporters say benefits should be focused exclusively on Australians, critics say the exclusion is heartless and against the government’s economic interests.

Foreign students delivered over A$40 billion last year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Commentators say the reputational impacts of the government’s treatment of these students could severely undermine one of the country’s biggest export industries

The Age newspaper reported that international students had been seen lining up in their hundreds at food banks across Melbourne, after many lost casual work at retail and hospitality businesses hit hard by the lockdown.

All comprehensive public universities and every Australian state and territory apart from New South Wales, the biggest jurisdiction, have now announced relief packages of various types. La Trobe University is among the latest to increase support, committing over A$12 million in bursaries, accommodation credits and service fee refunds.

La Trobe vice-chancellor John Dewar commended the state government’s contribution as “a humanitarian step” to address the “dire” financial situation confronting international students. “Many have lost their jobs or access to family support, are not eligible for federal government support and are unable to return to their home countries.”

Deakin University, which has committed up to A$25 million to its own hardship fund, said it had received more than 12,500 applications for help with around 8,000 processed so far. “We want our international students to continue at Deakin,” said vice-chancellor Iain Martin. “As of this week, more than 95 per cent remain enrolled. I hope the extra support will keep it that way.”

The Australian Business Deans Council (ABDC) is the latest group to demand that the federal government pitch in to “bring our international education sector back from the brink”. ABDC president David Grant said the federal government’s attitude to foreign students was “baffling and callous”.

“Our first priority must be to show unequivocally how much we value the personal, cultural, social and economic contributions international students make to Australia," he said. "Otherwise, by year’s end, we stand to lose tens of thousands of students who will rightly feel let down by a country that has been all too ready to take their money but has shown no willingness to help them in their time of need.”

The Victorian fund complements other state assistance for international students, including A$2,000 rental subsidies and free treatment for coronavirus symptoms. Foreign students are also eligible for the Working for Victoria initiative, which connects jobless people with employment in areas from deliveries, data entry and community outreach to aviation and agriculture work.

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (5)

International students would not have been encountering such predicament if they had heeded the advice of the pm and gone back to their home country to be with family rather than hold out here in the hope of gaining financial advantage paid by citizen’s taxes. It’s still not late for international students to go back and they should make all preparations to go back to their home country immediately. This support is coming out of citizen taxpayers who are having financial difficulties of their own and must be withdrawn immediately because the citizens of this country have not given amandate to their govt to extend this financial support. It’s a given that the current govt will lose the next election as they continue to support international students over aussies. no more taxpayer monies for international students.
Majority of these students are in dubious private colleges that do not have classrooms and instructors and which prosecutions you get to hear about from time to time. They have faked their home country credentials including finances, faked their class attendance here, faked their skills level here and faked their working hour certificate here for the purpose of claiming immigration and immigration only. It’s very simple, you just have to read their public discussion posts that are freely available online in reddit etc. and you will realise their real purpose was and is a backdoor entry to this country.
It’s not journalists’ role to editorialise, and everybody is entitled to his or her opinion. That said, it’s hard not to conclude there’s an element of xenophobia in your commentary. The manifest problems in Australian international education – rorts, substandard language skills, low-quality courses etc – have been widely covered by THE and other media, as have the immigration and work motivations driving many international enrolments, the risks of basing so much university revenue on this income stream, and the lofty earnings pocketed by many vice-chancellors. But it’s a very long straw to assert that most international students are here for dishonourable purposes, as you seem to suggest. Right now, international students in Australia face a humanitarian crisis, with thousands wondering how they’ll feed themselves or keep a roof over their heads. As a civilised country, this is not something we can ignore. It’s also a matter of economic self-interest; while you’re clearly no fan of the international education industry, it supports thousands of jobs and brings in billions of dollars. You can argue the toss about whether money that students have earned and then spent here should be included in the revenue figures. Either way, it’s still a huge export earner and it’s hard to see why it doesn’t warrant the sort of federal support given to landlords, aviation etc.
not on aussie taxpayer monies. international students need to go back to their home country at this time as teh pm said. just like aussie have all come back from indian, usa and elsewhere. interantional students came here to study and their income here to support themselves not contribution to the economy. infact they are double dipping and their studies are actually being funded by the aussie economy and that neds to stop. aussie welfare for aussie only. just like it is in every other country
Canada, the UK, Ireland and New Zealand have all made their welfare and/or job subsidy schemes available to international students.

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