In Canberra today after a National Cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country must focus at present on its citizens and residents.
He told reporters “These (student) visas, and those who are in Australia under various visa arrangements, they are obviously not held here compulsorily. If they are not in a position to support themselves then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries.”
At StudyPerth, we believe that this position lacks understanding and compassion and presents Australia in a very unfavourable light overseas – to the families of international students, to migration and education agents and the many young people overseas who are considering their study options once the travel restrictions are lifted. The Australian Government’s position jeopardises the ability of the international education sector to rebound after COVID-19.
This is a challenging time for us all, but international students find themselves in a particularly vulnerable situation. Many students have worked casually (and paid tax!) but have lost work and/or are now unable to find work. They are not eligible for Centrelink benefits and have been largely excluded from recent announcements of new concessions and allowances. Most students have no family support in Perth. Given the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families and funding sources from students’ home countries have also been impacted. Many students are struggling to meet their basic living expenses (such as rent, food and household bills). Some students wish to return home but are unable to do so because of travel restrictions or economic hardship.
Everyone in the international education community is acutely aware of the plight of many students in crisis. Student Associations and Guilds, Consulates, Education Providers and NGOs are all trying to support disadvantaged students as best they can. At StudyPerth we are looking to divert resources from curtailed or cancelled projects to a grant funding pool to address the acute needs of international students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions. We hope to be able to share further details at the end of next week.
The COVID-19 Information webpage and COVID-19 Information for Students webpage are updated as new information becomes available. Please share the student webpage with any international students in your network.