The Government of New South Wales has announced it will finance temporary crisis accommodation for international students facing distress because of Covid-19. The $20 m assistance plan would include a temporary accommodation program and support facilities for the students.
The package of $20 million includes a temporary housing scheme delivered through approved accommodation for students or home providers.
The NSW government said in its announcement that the steps would help protect vulnerable students and preserve the track record of the state as a “leading destination for global research.”
Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said increased support would also be provided via the NSW International Legal Service. At the same time, free advice would be available through the NSW government’s COVID-19 hotline from a new 24/7 international student support service.
A new 24/7 international student support service will provide free advice and updates on other steps, including the rental eviction moratorium, and medical, mental, legal and emergency assistance. “Hundreds of families across the state rely on the sector-whether by direct jobs, homestays or other services.”
This also offers expanded assistance through the NSW International Legal Service, making the multilingual My Legal Mate student app accessible for 50,000 free subscriptions.
Due to the pandemic, foreign students are not eligible for JobKeeper or JobSeeker services from the Government for those in financial distress.” The additional funding is being announced complements the efforts of educational institutions, demonstrated by NSW universities’ joint contribution of $180 million to their international and domestic students.”
Australian HE stakeholders welcomed the assistance, but some called for more to be done by the Federal Government to ensure a unified national approach to helping students. “Every Australian state and territory has now heard the call for international students to step up and help,” said Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia.
Nevertheless, according to Jackson, the amount and length of assistance that international students can receive varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. “The state or territory in which a foreign student is studying should not be the deciding factor in the degree of funding that they have available.
The commitment to help international students came from the governments of Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. “The state government has yet to discuss emergency food and financial assistance.
Charity and community groups do a large part of the work.
International education is Australia’s fourth-largest export which contributes $39 billion annually to the national economy. Universities in NSW contributed $8.3 billion in export earnings in 2018–19, creating thousands of local jobs.