When International students were told by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ‘go home’ if they ‘couldn’t support themselves’ thousands of international students were heartbroken.
Most international students rely on their part-time jobs to pay their rent, moving costs and university fees. Therefore, when more than 60% of international students have lost their jobs during the ongoing pandemic, they are struggling to feed themselves.
Away from home, they are unable to pay rent and are facing eviction, hunger and a lack of support.
The only hope international students had earlier this year, was to access their superannuation funds. However, this, too, was taken away. As of September, only permanent resident and Australian citizens are eligible to apply for the early release of their super for the financial year 2020-21.
Australia’s temporary visa holders are not eligible for JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments by the Australian government. Helpless students are returning home due to lack of jobs and financial adversities.
IndianCare as a silver lining
IndianCare is a not for profit organisation that works towards the welfare of Indian origin people in Victoria. Started in 2014, IndianCare intends to connect Indian students in Victoria to industrial professionals.
International Students Welfare Program Coordinator for the non-profit, Jyothsna Rao, says connecting international students to the job market is necessary for them to prosper.
She says among other services that IndianCare provides, it attempts to sort out issues faced by the students.
“IndianCare arranges international student alumni and business professionals to come and talk to students and answer their questions,”
“Students do have a lot of questions like where to now?’ so events at IndianCare wants to answer that.” Ms Rao said.
This year, however, IndianCare extended their services to students of other South Asian countries and launched South Asian Student Support or Project SASS.
The project comes as a response to the loss of jobs of students of South Asian origin.
“COVID- 19 has impacted international students dramatically, so SASS is trying to help students who are affected,” Ms Rao said.
SASS promotes the well being of South Asian international students who are from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar.
Ms Rao says that the program is to be led by students to help students.
“When it is student-led, we get a better insight about what students want, and we can provide that if possible,” Ms Rao said.
The project is funded by the Victorian Government and Study Melbourne’s International Student Welfare Program.
“The project acts as a bridge between the South Asian international students community and the wider service network.”
“We want to make COVID more navigable and bearable,” Ms Rao said.
Explaining the working of the organisation, Ms Rao says IndianCare provides information on jobs, accommodation, migration and mental health services among others.
“So when a student calls IndianCare, a caseworker connects them to their best option. Many don’t even know what options they have, and we make them aware of these options. We direct them towards the correct website and tell them how to access help,” Ms Rao said.
The SASS logo was designed by three students currently enrolled in different Victorian universities to fit the project’s multicultural aspect. It aims to reflect the unity in diversity of South Asian states.
“The logo is this beautiful flower, and it shows the colours of all the flags of these nations.” Ms Rao said.
IndianCare also supports students by providing food vouchers and conducting free online workshops to build a CV and other job-ready workshops.
Information on support, events and workshops is available through IndianCare.
Sheetal Singh is a freelance writer who holds a Masters of Journalism from Monash University. She is based in Melbourne, and is a regular contributor to SAARI.