September 18, 2020

TAFE's step up for international students

Having flooded into Australia to experience a different culture and gain a quality higher education, international students didn’t expect to be left high and dry when the pandemic hit. Yet many have suddenly found themselves stranded far from home, family and support networks, facing homelessness and poverty, and worrying where their next meal is coming from.

A high proportion of international students were supplementing their savings with part-time jobs in the hospitality and retail industries, which were among the first to close. Although Australian students could access the safety net of Jobkeeper payments, international students are being locked out of federal initiatives.

Stranded

While it’s true that international students do have to prove they have the finances to support themselves for their first year in Australia, the Prime Minister’s remarks that they should ‘go home if they can’t support themselves” were particularly heartless, and impossible for some, once borders were closed.

International student, Ahmed Ademoglu, President of the Council of International Students responded to the Prime Minister’s remarks saying “It is fair to expect international students to support themselves in a normal situation, but this is beyond their control, in fact it is beyond everyone’s control. We need international students to be equally considered in various support and welfare packages that are being offered by the government.”

Those that found themselves in difficulty were left at the mercy of state governments that eventually stepped up to provide relief payments, hardship funds and charity.

A helping hand
TAFE Queensland is just one of the examples of TAFE stepping up to provide support. With 2,400 international students, they discovered nearly all of them were facing financial hardship.

International Administration Officer, Jarred Hopkins kick-started the initiative when his generosity in buying essential groceries for struggling international students with his own money, inspired TAFE Queensland’s international team to host food drives at campuses across the state.

TAFE Queensland International Executive Director, Janelle Chapman said that with many part time jobs on hold, international students were struggling. So unable to wait for government support, TAFE teachers and staff stepped in to source non-perishable goods.

As word spread, TAFE Queensland’s campuses have been bombarded with acts of kindness and inundated with donations in support of international students from their communities.

The first contribution saw a load of tomatoes, capsicums, chicken portions, cakes, bread, milk and rice to TAFE Queensland’s South Bank campus. This donation was quickly followed up with a local bakery delivering baked goods for the steady stream of international students who visit the campus to collect food parcels.

“We’re receiving everything from tinned food, fresh produce, personal care items and frozen meals,” said Ms Chapman.

TAFE Queensland is still accepting food donations at various campuses across Queensland and is encouraging those with anything they can spare to contribute.

This article originally appeared in the Australian TAFE Teacher Magazine - Winter 2020.

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