New initiatives announced by the State Government aim to improve support and welfare services of international students. Mihika Hegde has more.
Minister for Small Business, Innovation, and Trade Philip Dalidakis has announced a renewed push to assist international students studying in Victoria.
Announced at the Study Melbourne Student Centre (SMSC), a Victorian Government initiative that provides support to international students, Minister Dalidakis revealed the improved services on offer for international students would include:
- Improving SMSC’s website interface, allowing for greater accessibility and multilingual features to assist students who speak English as a second language. The Study Melbourne website currently offers information regarding visa application, university courses, employment and work, living and accommodation, money and budgeting and more.
- New guidelines for International Student Welfare Grants (ISWG) to better align the resource with the international education strategy. Students can now access:
- Up to $5000 for international student groups to deliver services and activities for the international community
- $5000 – $75,000 grants for organisations in collaboration with student groups, associations, and other providers that support the wellbeing of international students
- A new LIVE (Lead, intern, volunteer, experience) program which offers relevant experience to international students, allowing them to build their professional and social networks while benefiting from practical work in their chosen field of employment.
In addition to these improved services, Minister Dalidakis also raised concern over the difficulty of accessing the International Undergraduate Student Education Pass (iUSEpass), for students using public transport.
“When international students can’t access a tertiary [public transport] card the way a local student can, I find that a form of discrimination that is abhorrent when you consider what we’re getting from the international students”, he said.
In Victoria alone, international students contributed $5.6 billion to the economy in 2014. Speaking of the country’s “biggest export earner”, Minister Dalidakis said it was time to “give back”.
International Student of the Year (Regional), Balaji Narayanaswamy, who was present at the Study Melbourne event, said “the first few days are the hardest” for international students and that asking for help could prove difficult.
“Some people are extroverted, some are introverted. Many don’t ask for help because they’re embarrassed”, he said. Balaji offers support and mentoring to international students in need and understands that language and cultural barriers, along with the stresses of balancing studies and work, can leave little time to access support services for those who need them.
“Sometimes all they [international students] need is for someone to come talk to them”, Balaji said.
Mr. Dalidakis also called for international students to engage their ministerial representatives, without hesitation.
“It comes down to each and everyone one of you [international students], talking with your fellow students and reassuring them that they can have confidence to bring up issues they’re confronting”, Mr. Dalidakis said.
“We need people to take a leap of faith and ask for help when they need it”, he said.