THE State Government has launched a 24-hour support and welfare service for international students in Victoria.
The International Student Care Service (ISCS) will provide a single point of contact for students in the event of an emergency, including access to counselling, crisis accommodation and food aid.
Students can call a 24-hour phone line for advice and support, or access the drop-in service in Carlton during business hours.
Premier John Brumby said the service was an Australian first, and would make a real difference to young people from around the world who came to live, work and study in Victoria.
“We understand that our visiting international students can feel isolated from family and friends, especially without a strong social network and they can find themselves disoriented in a new community where they might struggle with the language,” Mr Brumby said.
Minister for Skills and Workforce Participation Bronwyn Pike said the State Government had invested $500,000 to set up the service and would be providing a further $250,000 to deliver a legal assistance and support service to target the needs of the international student community.
“This funding will, in partnership with the Federation of Community Legal Centres, develop an effective model for the delivery of these services over the next 12 months,” Ms Pike said.
“The Indian International Student Advisory Centre would also receive $20,000 to support volunteer efforts within the Indian community.”
Following a string of damaging reports of racist attacks against Indian students in Melbourne, Mr Brumby was also keen to emphasise the state’s multicultural heritage.
He said Victoria had developed an international reputation as a great place to study and work and the Victorian Government was taking action to strengthen that reputation.
“Last year there were more than 190,000 international students enrolled in Victorian education institutions. International students make a significant contribution to Victoria’s diverse, multicultural society and enhance our community in many ways,” Mr Brumby said.
“We are a place where people speak more than 230 languages and dialects and follow more than 120 different faith traditions.
“We understand there are student concerns about well-being and safety and that is why we invested $14 million in our Action Plan for International Education, Thinking Global which included the international student’s service care centre.”
Australian Federation of International Students president Wesa Chau said the new service was a good start to providing better care to international students in Victoria, though its success could only be judged at a later time.
“At the moment we’re just waiting to see how it’s going to work,” Ms Chau said.
But she believed a round-the-clock support service would complement the work of organisations like AFIS.
“They deal with crises and they’re good at dealing with crises. They’ve got all the contacts, information and networks for the various government departments, so students can be directed to the right people,” she said.
For more information about the International Student Care Service, visit www.multicultural.vic.gov.au/iscs or call 1800 056 449.
International Student Care Service
Level 1, 19–21 Argyle Place South
Carlton, Victoria 3053