Australia’s state government of Victoria – which ranks international education as its largest service export – has announced an emergency support fund of AU$45 million offering AU$1,100 for all struggling international students.
It joins many other state territories in stepping up to offer financial assistance in the absence of a national fund, as stories of students struggling to afford food or pay rent are widely shared.
The website for Study Melbourne crashed under the deluge of traffic, according to Twitter; the site hosts a webform which all eligible students can use to register their interest.
“International students give so much to Victoria – it’s only fair we support them in their hour of need,” said Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade, Martin Pakula.
The website for Study Melbourne crashed under the deluge of visitors
“This virus doesn’t discriminate and neither do we – we are in this together and we will get through it together.”
Students who have lost their job or had a significant reduction to their employment will be eligible.
Up to 40,000 international students enrolled at universities, TAFEs, VET providers and English language colleges could benefit from the relief payment, according to the Victorian government.
The AU$45 million fund will be operated in partnership with education providers. Individual payments, “which will require co-contributions from university hardship funds”, build on existing Victorian government support provided via the Study Melbourne Student Centre such as free legal aid and mental health services.
There has been a significant response to the announcement supporting international students today. We are experiencing a technical issue that causes intermittent access to the website. We are working to resolve ASAP. If you are trying to register please be try again later.
— Study Melbourne (@studymelbourne) April 29, 2020
Study Melbourne reminded students on its website they were also eligible “for the Rent Relief Grant, protecting tenants from eviction as a result of financial hardship, providing access to free mediation services, and a rental relief payment for eligible households”.
At Universities Australia, Catriona Jackson, chief executive, said the organisation “welcomes the Victorian government’s announcement to work with universities to assist the more than 100,000 higher education international students in the state who are facing hardship after losing their part-time jobs”.
UA pointed out that Victoria joins the ACT, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia in assisting international students: New South Wales is the notable exception with a sizeable international student community.
The latest AU$45 million fund, as well as providing a one-off payment to students in need, will expand emergency provisions for those experiencing exceptional circumstances.
Some students are already homeless: earlier this month, press reports revealed Mauricio Pucci of education agency Information Planet had opened up his home to 20 international students who were homeless: one had been asked to leave by his host family.