INTERNATIONAL students in Melbourne now have virtually free access to the world of Australian culture.
Launched earlier this week by the Committee for Melbourne and the State Government, the Culture Card was created as a way of welcoming international students to Victoria.
The card will be distributed to international students enrolled at universities, vocational colleges and higher education institutions, and gives students access to numerous events held around the state – either free of charge or at heavily discounted rates.
Offers include access to the footy, cricket games, museums, the zoo, the Arts Centre and the Shrine of Remembrance.
Committee for Melbourne’s policy director Susan Vale said the card was aimed at encouraging international students to make the most of their time in Melbourne and enriching their experiences.
“We did some surveys and found that a lot of international students want to feel very engaged in the community where they stay,” Ms Vale said.
“They don’t want to just live in a country; they want to have a good understanding of their host country while they’re there, and be involved in the country and its community and society.”
But what does Australian culture mean in the first place?
“It’s about understanding our history, where we come from,” Ms Vale said.
“This is why [we have] partners like The Shrine, so that people understand, because it is such a big part of our Australian life.
“The First World War, our involvement in Gallipolli – these are part of our Australian psyche.”
Ms Vale said the “cultural partners” who were part of the initiative were chosen because they provided insight into the shaping influences of Australian life.
“It’s not all about art galleries,” she said.
Indeed, the first event on the program is a foodies’ tour of the Queen Victoria Market, where students will get to experience Melbourne’s obsession with good food, and learn a few tips on using fresh produce to cook.
Other opportunities to experience Melbourne culture include a tour of the MCG and a beginner’s lesson on Australian Rules football.
Ms Vale said it was all about putting things into context for international students.
“It’s really about opening doors and breaking down barriers,” she said.
For more information, or to activate your card, register online at www.culturecardvictoria.com.au.