CISA National Education Conference 2013

INTERNSHIPS, work rights, cost of living and initiatives to encourage industry best practice were on the agenda at this year’s CISA National Education Conference in Sydney. Diane Leow reports.

Industry stakeholders speaking at the CISA National Education Conference 2013. Photo: Diane Leow

Industry stakeholders speaking at the CISA National Education Conference 2013. Photo: Diane Leow

Some 250 delegates attended an education conference this week in Sydney, hosted by Australia’s international student peak body, the Council of International Students Australia (CISA).

In its third year, the conference attracted both local and international student representatives from postgraduate, undergraduate, private college TAFE, and foundation level, as well as government and education industry stakeholders.

Key issues

Important issues canvassed at this year’s conference included the lack of internship and work opportunities relating to students’ fields of study and post-study work rights.

Initiatives aimed at improving the quality of the overseas study experience were announced, such as the Student Welfare Services mobile app, a multilingual online orientation program that covers a wide variety of topics to prepare international students for their arrival into Australia; as well as the CISA Good Practice Program to encourage education providers to adopt best practice within the industry.

The Good Practice Program contained recommendations for key aspects of the student experience, including transparency of agent commissions, transportation, telecommunication and internet options, work rights, homestay standards and healthcare.

Walter Robles, a Law PhD student from Monash University, said he felt the two main issues international students faced were safety and the rising costs of living and studying in Australia.

With regards to the latter, Mr Robles said educational expenses were a significant investment and ought to provide students with an adequate return.

“We need to be sure that the parents’ money is recovered somehow – whether it’s a good degree we can actually use when we go back home, or possibly work in Australia and eventually (leading to) permanent residency and citizenship, which would change our lives. And that’s how the investment is recovered,” he said.

Industry needs to offer solutions

David Bycroft, director of student welfare services and executive chairman of the Australian Homestay Network, told Meld Magazine the industry as a whole needs to give the government a solution, instead of waiting for the government to provide them with the solution.

He said the Australian Homestay Network and Allianz Global Assistance have partnered with CISA in its lobbying efforts.

“Our view is that the CISA group is much more powerful than they even think,” Mr Bycroft said.

“We’ve already had some wins by us helping them with their lobbying. We’ve been able to fly Aleem into places for meetings with government on things like hospital costs, (and) hospital access for international students.

“We’ve now got a process and support in place so that any issue can be put into the Good Practice Program and then we could have a strategic attack on it, whilst we are solving the problem outside of government,” he said.

Mr Bycroft added that the most pressing issue was to improve communication between students and universities.

“It’s so easily fixed but it needs a commitment from the education provider to the CISA Good Practice Program. That is the solution for the education provider, to start to implement in their own institutions what CISA calls ‘good practice’, then follow those guidelines so that the issues that have happened in the past disappear,” he said.

Response from students

Elisha Hoong, president of The Singapore Link at Murdoch University, felt the conference was beneficial to the international student community.

“As an international student leader, the things that I could take away were things like visa, jobs; issues like (how to lodge effective) complaints… how students can actually improve their lives,” Mr Hoong said.

Other student delegates said they felt the conference could have been streamlined to better suit their needs.

Soe San Htike Pipi, a Bachelor of Arts student from the University Queensland, found some of the dialogue sessions and workshops “irrelevant at times or repetitive”.

“Some of the dialogue sessions touch on the same topics, just from different perspectives. When you have too much information on one topic, sometimes it can become unnecessary to know that much or know personal opinions,” the Burmese student said.

A number of students said more work had to be put in to raise the profile of the peak body, as they had only found out about CISA after their universities sent them an email informing them of the conference.

Outgoing CISA president Aleem Nezairi said the conference this year received a better response compared to last year and was “happy and excited” about the turnout.

What issues and topics would you like students, government and education industry stakeholders address at the next CISA National Education Conference? Share your views with us in the comments section below.

There are 5 comments

  1. andre

    I would like to see an effective resolution when we lodge a complain to the government, such as TPS that I have been wating for over 8 months for a response as the Education Provider I studied last year owed me over $1,200 and looks like nobody cares.
    I sent numerous e-mails and made phone calls to CISA (spoke always to Kerryn Chung) and never saw any effective solution which makes me think if CISA really help the oversea student or is another “political” party.
    So disappointed.

    1. Kerryn

      Thanks Andre. CISA is not a political party and as per my emails, I had advised that the relevant departments who deal specifically with individual cases such as TPS, and Overseas Ombudsman be contacted because they have the capacity to do in-depth investigations. CISA may not be able to resolve individual cases but can provide advice on frameworks that exist and processes that need to be followed to effectively resolve issues. Also, I mentioned by email that I will pass on your case to the newly elected vice president and welfare officer since the investigations by the relevant authorities may take time depending on the case details.

  2. David Bycroft

    I would be happy to follow up for Andre as issues like this need answering. Everyone must remember that CISA is managed by volunteers committed to making Australia a better place for International Students. The CISA Committee also face the same daily challenges of an international student living in Australia. That is why groups like ours help CISA (and International Students) when there is a challenge. I would be happy for Andre to contact me with details at:

  3. andre

    Hi Kerryn and David, thanks for your response. I publicly apologize for how I wrote my thoughts… how wrongly I wrote that CISA is like a political party.. in fact is not, is a serious organisation, however the comparision was more about for this delay and way I felt it was been driven, even knowing you guys can’t look after every single case in depth, I thought would have more attention and pressure, of course you guys can’t take one on one to solve some kind of issues, I completely understand that, but what is unclear for me, is the way my case was been analised. I say this based on TPS officer when in those dozens of e-mail he showed to me and you (Kerryn) he didn’t know about the case and wrote that was new for him. How come? Completely disrespectful with me. Unacceptable. We (Kerryn and I) was following my complain for months, and he made it looks like nothing – Over 8 months to decide something?? What is this, It needs go to the Parliament to get a signature or what? I have to go to the TV Shows, Newspapers, Social Media… all over again? That education provider (Gold Coast Learning Centre) used “fake” education agent in Europe (I got this info from 2 Slovenian students) which is illegal according to the National Code of Practice, they broken at least 3 standards and still working! The manager (Ms Stephanie Betts) used me to do induction days for new students, as they didn’t have staff able to do it, I organised events around the school, the manager (Ms Stephanie Betts) offered me discounts on my fees to do all these jobs (and I worked without any written agreement or get Tax paid – both actions illegal by Australian laws – and she knew that) and on the end when I asked my rights after received a false accusation, the Director (Mr Scott Keogh) threat me saying: Go away, you’re not welcome on my school and watch your back (all this following me to the lift). I passed weeks without good sleep worried about my personal safety, had to go to a psycologist to help myself. All these steps I went through BY MYSELF without any kind of help from nobody. After that I decided to create a facebook page ( to offer reliable and clear info to other international student about general interests, and I also studied to become an education agent conunselor, all because I want justice done, I want stop people like those at Gold Coast Learning Centre to steal and threat oversea student. What I mean by that is that my frustration as many other students probably had the same, is at the moment above any limits. When someone (a student) look for information or ask for help in an organisation, such CISA, ASQA, TPS, Ombudsman, or even the media – as I did all of them, at least we expect some kind of attention, as a foreign student, far of our family, friends and country. Thats not easy! I feel like nobody really cares, a part of how much money we’re going to pay to the education provider, in other words, we are over hundreds and hundreds of thousands of international students in Australia, and we should be heard, I want a solution, I want to be heard and help others, we are strong enough to get solutions fast, its all just beyond ridiculous, after dozens of e-mails, phone calls, copies of documents to support my claim and absolutely nothing has been done, no pressure on this education provider, they still working freely, and I heard recently they haven’t been paying tax for their teachers, and the majority of them made a complain to ATO – thanks God they did.
    Well, I have been waiting for my refund (around $1,200) since November/2012 and I just want justice as I paid all this amount in advance for a course that was cancelled (Ms Stephanie Betts did), so ITS MY MONEY, ITS MY RIGHT.
    Thanks for your time once again and I still fighting on my own to get justice!
    Hopefully one day I can help many other students on they issues by my example.

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