MORE than 50 per cent of female international students said they felt isolated and unsafe in Melbourne, in a study conducted by the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition (VIRWC).
The VIRWC report, released on October 4, voiced the concerns of 60 female students.
Most of the women surveyed came from India, Sri Lanka and China, and were students at Melbourne’s TAFE and private colleges.
The report found 40 per cent of those women surveyed felt ashamed, depressed and powerless, but few sought treatment for problems relating to mental health.
The report also contained findings from another survey by women’s information organisation WIRE, conducted on 102 women from a range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Around 95 per cent of students who spoke to WIRE said they had never accessed support services in their colleges or communities.
The majority of those students said they did not seek help because they were unaware there were support services available, or did not know how to access them.
Many struggled to discuss their personal issues in English or with strangers from different cultural backgrounds.
The survey also found a need for better housing support services, with many female international students reporting their struggles with language barriers and battles against discrimination.
Executive director of VIRWC, Melba Marginson, said she was surprised by the number of students reporting mental health issues.
“High percentages of women felt negative feelings during their stay in Australia and there are many unmet mental health needs among female students,” she said.
An international student from China, Dylan, 24, who did not wish to give her full name, said she turned to alcohol after leaving her home country to study at a Melbourne college.
“I became depressed and that was impacting my diet and I was drinking everyday,” she said.
Ms Marginson said there were many other students who resorted to alcohol to cope with their problems.
She said the report aimed to give female international students a chance to voice their needs and aspirations.
She hoped the findings would lead to an increase in government and community action.
City of Melbourne councillor Cathy Oke, who was once an international student, said the report would help the government identify critical issues facing a potentially vulnerable community.
“Raising awareness of these issues is an important step in working towards the solutions for this demographic need,” Cr Oke said.