Peak bodies of Indian Diaspora Community in Australia seeking humanitarian support from Australian Government to reduce International Students’ hardship
COVID19 pandemic has created widespread anxiety and panic amongst the International Student Community in Australia, which is over 560,000, contributes over $38 Billion to our Australian economy and support around 250,000 jobs. There are over 86,000 Indian International Students in Australia. We have been getting many distressed phone calls from the students who have lost their jobs, unable to pay rental, do not have a safety net to fall back to. They are stressed and anxious about their uncertain future. Various community organizations have joined together to support these International Student and since last 3 weeks, we have been running various programs to support and provide some relief to these student in time of crisis. Some university and guild bodies have now started to come out and support them as well. COVID19 is testing all the world leaders as the world has not seen such event in last 100 years. We have seen how hard everyone is working. These are testing times and we do not want to distract the government from task on hand. However, we kindly urge the government to offer assistance where needed most.This crisis is no one’s fault and we should work together to ensure these young International Students in Australia get a Fair Go. We Australian have always risen to any challenges and we should ensure these young dreams and aspirations are supported.
After a rigorous consultation process, brainstorming, and having conducted a survey of students to identify their major issues, we have come up with certain possible solutions, which can certainly work towards helping the students without draining our country’s financial resources.
We appeal you to consider the requests/possible solutions outlined below
Indirect reduction of immediate financial obligations: Pertaining to the current COVID19 crisis and recommended precautions/restrictions, all education delivery has moved online and being conducted remotely. This has significantly affected the students’ learning experience and the quality of education that they initially expected and agreed to pay for. While this situation and relative changes have arisen from an unforeseen and totally unexpected series of events, it had also resulted in a significant cost reduction for the education providers in delivering the education. We believe that taking advantage of the significant cost savings that the providers are temporarily able to make, it is also achievable to offer temporary fee discounts, rebates, and fee credits to the students, which will significantly reduce their financial burden and help them sustain and sail through this relatively short-term crisis period.
Visa obligations and regulations: Student visas are governed by a set of conditions, which are defined by visa regulations. These conditions require students to fulfil certain requirements in order to maintain their enrolment and visa including further visa and residency options. Due to the temporary flexible learning modes, it has become possible for students to participate in their studies from anywhere, including their home country if they are able to safely travel. However, the visa regulations do not allow students to do this and if they decide to temporarily go back to their home country then it jeopardises their current visas and possible future visa extensions. We believe that if the students are given the flexibility of being able to continue their remote studies from their home country for the time being, without effecting their visas and future visa extensions then this will encourage many to take up this option and this will also ease off the burden on the Australian system too in this period of extreme demand and scarcity of resources.
Relaxation on enrolment conditions: All student visas carry conditions that require the students to remain enrolled in fulltime study load with their respective education providers. Non-compliance with this condition can seriously effect validity of their current visa and future visa or residency options. A temporary relief to the students from this condition can enable them to enrol in relatively fewer subjects/units in their course and this will reduce their fee obligations for a semester or two. This temporary measure will encourage more and more students to continue their studies while also helping the education providers to avoid a bigger loss of enrolments and revenue.
Effectiveness of access to superannuation: In a recent development, the students have been given access to their superannuation funds for up to a certain limit, given that they have been in Australia for more than 12 months. This gesture is welcome, however in practicality it does not deliver much of a real help tostudents due to following facts –
a) Most students, on their arrival into Australia, take a fair bit of time to settle
and find any part time work around their main goal of studies.
b) Their initial 3-6 months are spent without any work and once they have
found work it is generally inconsistent and no more than 20 hours a week.
This does not give them a great income and of course not much super.
c) The students who have spent more than 12 months in Australia, do not
actually have enough super accumulated to be of any real help.
Leaving Australia: In a recent recommendation, the students were recommended that if they are finding it tough to sustain themselves, then going back to their home countries is a better option for them. While it appears to be an option, it is not one that comes without repercussions and disadvantages. First and foremost, most countries have travel restrictions at this stage and it is not possible for students to travel safely or even travel back to their countries at all. We realise this may not last forever but if students leave Australia then they are severely jeopardising their visas, studies, and all that that they have tirelessly worked towards for establishing themselves in this country. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of lives and dreams. If this solution has to work then it shall come with relaxation in visa, study, and enrolment conditions to allow them to come back, at appropriate time in the future, to be able to continue their studies without losing their fees, enrolments, and easier visa extensions. With students leaving Australia without making it easier for them to come back, the Australian education providers are also going to lose significant revenue up to the extent of even making their operations unviable. Hence, it is also not in the best interest of the education providers that the students leave Australia without any measures in place to allow them to come back and continue their studies.
Sustenance Allowance: Some students who have been here longer than 12 months, some are in process of getting PR and have longer-term goal for becoming a future Australian citizen, we should look into providing some kind of Sustenance Allowance as a kind Australian gesture of support. This will go a long way in terms of integrating these future citizens and they will carry a positive feeling of Australian looking after them in time of crisis. We do not know what formulae we arrive or what amount should be give but they are working equally hard like any other Australian. There has to be some humanitarian considerations. This will make Brand Australia even bigger.
“We community organisations, collectively represent over 700,000 strong Indian Diaspora in Australia. We are part of fabric of this multi-cultural society and we are proud Australian of Indian origin. From Cricket to Curries, From Canberra to Delhi, we are the living bridge between the two proud nations and we take this Australia India relationship and translate into people-to-people relationship. We work tirelessly to ensure integration of the diaspora into mainstream Australia; we support young people, families, elderly and work will government at all level.Overall, we contribute tremendously to the Australian Nation building process. We urge your team to think through these suggestions, work on related policy setting, which delivers outcome which reflects fairness, shows compassion and kindness and reaffirm Australia as a Fair Dinkum country and enhance Brand Australia to be received well globally.”
Federation of Indian communities of South Australia
Mob: 0401034456, Email- [email protected]
Federation of Indian Communities of Queensland Inc.
Mob: 0421031301, Email – [email protected]
Federation of Indian Communities of Victoria.
Mob: 0455599900, Email – [email protected]
Dr. Yadu Singh
Federation of Indian Associations of New South Wales
Mob: 0413375669, Email – [email protected]
Dr. Sunita Dhinsa,
Federation of Indian Associations of ACT
Mob: 0403113007, Email – [email protected]
Atul Garg JP,
Federation of Indian Associations of Western Australia
Mob: 0421456200, Email – [email protected]
Federation of Indian Associations of Western Australia
Mob: 0421828663, Email – [email protected]