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Deakin University Student Association launches visa advice service for students

Rebecca Di Nuzzo

Wed Jan 01 2014

DUSA and Sort It! Deakin Legal Advice for Students

FREE food, a petting zoo and… migration advice? Rebecca Di Nuzzo was at Deakin University Student Association’s Christmas party, which held a very welcome announcement for international students.

Photo: Rebecca Di Nuzzo

From left: Madelaine Sexton, DUSA Burwood campus co-ordinator; Donna Askew, co-ordinator Sort It! Deakin Legal Service for Students; Dan Juleff, DUSA general secretary; Connie Chen, community lawyer; Lee Stapleton, migration lawyer. Photo: Rebecca Di Nuzzo

There was more to celebrate than summer break at Deakin University Student Association (DUSA)’s Christmas party this year, held Thursday December 12 at the university’s Burwood campus.

As part of their new partnership with Eastern Community Legal Centre(ECLC) and Barwon Community Legal Service (BCLS), DUSA’s free on-campus legal advice service, Sort It!, announced it will now provide free migration advice to currently enrolled international students at Deakin University.

DUSA resident David Joyce said the new service was developed in response to an unmet need of international students and was part of DUSA’s commitment to providing innovative services for Deakin students.

“DUSA, run by students for students, has a long history of providing innovative and targeted services,” he said.

“The Student Visa Legal Advice clinic is part of DUSA’s greater focus on supporting international students on campus”.

Donna Askew, the co-ordinator of Deakin Legal Service for Students, said the visa advice clinic is an exciting expansion in the area of student legal services as a range of academic and employment concerns often affect international students and raise questions regarding their rights and obligations under their visas.

But she said the new service would allow students access to registered, professional Migration Agents able to provide comprehensive and reliable advice either face-to-face for students on campus, or via telephone or Skype for students located at other Deakin campuses.

“We provide legal advice, we provide education and we provide referrals,” she said.

“Other universities have legal services, however to my knowledge they don’t offer all the areas of law that we do”.

…although they (international students) are not permanent residents or citizens, they do have rights regarding housing and employment.” – Belinda Lo, Lawyer

Belinda Lo, Principle Lawyer at ECLS, said the service would assist international students in protecting their legal rights while in Australia.

She said the service was vital in educating students that although they are not permanent residents or citizens, they do have rights regarding housing and employment.  As well as advice on infringements, she said issues related to tenancy and employment law were among the most highly enquired about by international students.

Prior to the clinic’s launch she also said the cost of seeking legal advice was often a problem for students, as many didn’t have the financial resources to afford private legal advice.

“I think that there’s this common misperception that international students, because they came here and they pay [for their education and accommodation], that therefore they’re very wealthy,” she said.

She added that the free legal service would help address the misconception that that international students in Australia are “rolling in cash”.

Ms Askew said the service had already proved popular with students, and plans were underway to develop a range of publications that will inform international students on their rights and obligations in languages which are most commonly spoken on campus.

DUSA’s Student Visa Legal Advice clinic will be open on Monday nights from 6:30pm and provide free and confidential legal advice on migration law and student visa issues for Deakin students. A free interpreting service is available on request and students can make an appointment online or by dropping into DUSA Building ‘A’.