Media release:

GSA calls on government to meet their duty of care to international students

GSA Representation Team

6 April 2020

The University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association (GSA) has grave concerns for the wellbeing for the international student cohort, following the inhumane comments of Prime Minister Scott Morrison that struggling international students should leave Australia if they are unable to support themselves.

GSA has been working closely with the University of Melbourne on advocating for support for international students. We greatly appreciate the University’s creation of the Emergency Support Fund. This fund allows all students experiencing financial hardship to access grants to cover expenses such as rent and materials to study at home.

The Federal Government must do their part in assisting international students in these unprecedented circumstances. For many international students, family support they could previously rely upon is no longer an option due to the global nature of the crisis.

The Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge’s statement that international students can draw upon their superannuation is insufficient.

GSA President Emily Roberts believes: International students, who are routinely victims of workplace exploitation as explored in GSA’s submission to the Senate inquiry on illegal underpayment, typically have low superannuation balances (in many cases three-digit figures). This would not tide these students over for a long time, particularly if they are facing a loss of income, insecure accommodation and global currency fluctuations

International students are vital to the Australian economy, with international education being the nation’s largest services export and third-largest export overall. The government has a duty of care towards these students who come to Australian institutions. We believe that failing to support international students in distress constitutes mistreatment. We are deeply concerned about the health and social and emotional wellbeing of international students at this time.

“International students are currently experiencing huge emotional and mental health issues, and comments like these from our political leaders do not provide any comfort to us,” says GSA CEO Rachna Muddagouni.

GSA looks forward to working with the peak student bodies to positively advocate for government support for international students in crisis.