A LARGE number of students who come to Australia to study are unaware that they can be exploited by unscrupulous employers and landlords, says workers union United Voice. Vivian Tan reports.
International students from around Victoria gathered at a ‘get respect’ forum on Sunday May 11 organised by United Voice, a union representing cleaners, security guards and hospitality workers.
The forum, Your Rights Explained: A Survival Guide for International Students, was held in response to a damning report released late last year by United Voice and Victorian TAFE International (VTI), which found international students working as cleaners in shopping centres were being shortchanged up to $250 a week.
Victorian Secretary of United Voice Jess Walsh said a large number of students who come to Australia to study are unaware that they can be exploited by unscrupulous employers and landlords.
Shane McGrath from the Tenants Union shared horror stories from students who were cheated into signing leases.
There were insects, cracks everywhere, broken windows and they had a cardboard box as a door.
“There were insects, cracks everywhere, broken windows and they had a cardboard box as a door,” McGrath said.
Going over the basics of renting, Mr advised students to always have a record and proof in writing for payments as getting out of a lease could be very difficult.
There was also a push for students to speak up and reach out for assistance.
State Member of Parliament for Melbourne Jennifer Kanis acknowledged the great cultural and economic contribution international students have made to the city and encouraged those facing problems to seek the support services that are available to them.
Multicultural employment consultant at Monash University Danny Ong said many of the services offered by universities are under-utilised.
“How well do you actually know your university?” Mr Ong asked students.
“Career services at Monash University was voted best for four years. We help you to get jobs but no one utilises the services!”
Industrial officer of United Voice, Paul Sutton, spoke about workers’ rights. Describing the differences between casual, part time and full time work, Mr Sutton explained the entitlements that each gave employees.
On the topic of migration rights, migration lawyer Dennis Shen reminded students of the legal requirements of maintaining a visa, such as enrolment obligations and applying for further stay in Australia. He also explained the dangers of breaching a visa and outlined the steps that should be taken should this occur.
As the forum drew to a close, experts in employment and tenants’ rights, migrations law and community policy all had the same message – that international students needed to be aware of their rights to avoid becoming easy targets.
To help international students better understand their rights, United Voice has created a Get Respect Facebook Page that answers questions about studying, working and living in Australia.