Trinity College students and their attitudes towards Melbourne’s homeless

DO international students’ perception of the homeless change when they’re in Melbourne? Trinity College Foundation Studies students Joyce Zhong, Bethany Lee and Ciel Lee investigate.

Walk past Melbourne Central at almost any time of the day and you’re more than likely to encounter a handful of homeless people on your way to and from school.

For international students, seeing homeless people is nothing new as many cases of homelessness already exist in their home country. But do the attitudes of international students change when they see the homeless in Melbourne versus those they encounter back home?

Speaking with several students from Trinity College, it was found that most Chinese students demonstrated a merciful attitude towards the homeless in Melbourne. Some claim they buy food when they see someone who might need it.

Although the majority of Chinese students we spoke to believed that the Australian government should make more of an effort to help those in need, several others felt that those without homes were already capable of improving their situation but were too lazy to do so.

In China, homelessness carries extremely negative connotations with allegations that businesses and criminal syndicates kidnap people and make them “work” as beggars.

By doing so, the businesses and criminal organisations earn money for themselves when its time to collect from the beggars. In some instances, “professional beggars” can earn more money than those who make a proper living.

Other students from countries such as Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia also displayed a positive attitude in their treatment of homeless people. Students will give money to those they see sleeping in the streets or walking around begging for change.

But not everyone is as kind. Jessica, a student from Malaysia, said at first she “wanted to give [the homeless] money” but after thinking about it dropped the idea entirely “just in case they would use my money to buy drugs”.

Like Jessica, some students felt that by giving money they would be enabling those who may be suffering from an alcohol or drug addiction.

Still, many international students will go out of their way to try and help the homeless, regardless of how the homeless might spend their money. While some might retain the same attitudes they had about the homeless they encountered back home, others were more willing to help as best they could.

This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch us via

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Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

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