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Organisations and groups every international student needs to know

Meld Magazine

Tue Nov 19 2013


FOLLOWING warnings by the NSW police and government about an unofficial body purporting to represent the needs of international students on campus, Meld reporter Joanna Robin gives you a run-down of who’s who, and the organisations that really represent the international student community. 


The National Liaison Committee (NLC), run by the elusive Chinese businessman Jan “Master” Shang, is under investigation after offering false identification cards to students in exchange for visa numbers and passport details.

Related story: Who is Master Shang and what does he want from international students? 


In fact, the official peak body for International students in Australia is The Council of International Students Australia (CISA). They represent students studying at all levels and claim no political alignment with the aim of objectively advocating on behalf of international students.

The group advocates for student rights in a number of areas including, accommodation, immigration, work rights, quality education, access to education and travel concessions.

CISA is an association of other associations which operates on a national, state and campus level, interacting with everyone from the federal government to student representative councils.

They also work in conjunction with the Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS).


AFIS is not-for-profit and was established in 2002 with the goal of bridging the gap between international students and the wider community.

A partner of Meld Magazine and The Couch, they seek to inform students of the diverse activities available to them, and hope to enrich their experience of Australian life.

Both CISA and AFIS work co-operatively with The Council of Australia Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) and The National Union of Students (NUS) who represent the interests of Australia’s post graduate and undergraduate students, respectively.

Related: How do student elections work?

The Australian government also offers a list of resources for international students, and those with complaints or problems regarding education or training practices can contact the Overseas Student Ombudsman for assistance.

Student Unions

At a campus level, there are many student groups run for and by international students.

Most Australian universities also have a student elected representative council (SRC) or Union, which include a member to speak on behalf of international students.

Many also have an elected group specifically for International student representation, such as the Melbourne University Overseas Student Service (MUOSS) and the Monash University International Students Service (MUISS).

Meld Magazine conducted a survey which asked international students if they knew who is speaking for them on campus and in the wider community.

While many were aware that there is support and representation out there, many were unsure of where to start looking or how to have a say in just who speaks on their behalf. Results of the survey, as of November 19, 2013, are presented below.

Do you feel there are adequate avenues where international student issues can be raised, heard and represented?
  • No (63%, 10 votes)
  • Yes (37%, 6 votes)

Are you a member of a student group, organisation or peak body?

  • Yes (69%, 11 votes)
  • No (31%, 5 votes)

Which of the following student organisations or bodies do you know or have heard of?

  • CISA (67%, 10 votes)
  • AFIS (67% 10 votes)
  • NUS (33%, 5 votes)
  • CAPA (27%, 4 votes)
  • NLC (13%, 2 votes)

Have you ever voted or taken part in a student election at your university?

  • Yes (53%, 10 votes)
  • No (47%, 9 votes)

Student elections are…

  • More about politics and makes little difference to improving the quality of student life (47%, 7 votes)
  • Important for international student representation at the university level (33%, 5 votes)
  • What? There was an election? (13%, 2 votes)
  • An opportunity for me to get involved, have a say and make a difference on campus (7%, 1 vote)