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Equity among students

By Jieh-Yung Lo - posted Thursday, 14 February 2008

Victoria has over 100,000 international students who have contributed greatly to Victoria’s multicultural society by offering their skills, experiences and showcasing their original culture through active community involvement. They bring with them diverse cultures that enriches the Australian experience.

Even the Victorian Government recognises the contribution international students bring to this state. According to Education Minister, Bronwyn Pike, international students enrich our school system and bring diversity and motivation to our education system.

Our local students are in fact not missing out but greatly appreciate the diversity and energy international students bring. Life long friendships between local and international students are made in the classroom. Having international students in Victorian classrooms allows us to develop an understanding of other countries and cultures, which in turn contributes to the rich tapestry of our increasingly rich multicultural society. We should be treating international students more like our own and not just an educational cash cow.


However while we talk of the benefits of having international students studying in our classrooms, their needs are often ignored. The Victorian Government has argued that there is no need to introduce policies providing subsidised services for international students because they won’t live in the state past their education. However contrary to that myth, due to their time studying in the state, a number of international students have called Victoria their new home.

Jiayi Yu, from Dalian in China, is a Commerce/Law graduate from the University of Melbourne gives thanks and appreciation for his time studying in Australia.

“Arriving in Australia at a very early age and having been living here for almost a decade, I have developed a very intimate connection with the country, society and its people. Australia has given me the unique opportunity to benefit from its world-class education system, to maximise my potential and achieve my life-time goals. Now, I think it is time for me to repay this city and country for its generosity and hospitality.”

Jiayi is currently working as a Lawyer at Deacons.

A common, but false, perception is that international students are very well off. It is true that before they gain a visa to enter Australia, they must demonstrate that they are already self-sufficient and are able to meet all their living expenses. However, this is not always the case as some students are currently struggling to make ends meet. They need to work to cover their expenses; hence there is less time to focus on their studies. A common example is that a great number of taxi drivers in Melbourne are students from India, who work about 20 hours a week while studying full-time.

For an international student studying at the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus, the estimated total cost of rent of one-bedroom with a shared bathroom and kitchen ranges from $16,900 to $22,600 per year. Other cost of living estimates other than rent include $45 a week on bills and $50 a week on food and other utilities. For students who travel on public transport, they are required to pay $104.40 a month for a zone one ticket, compared to local students with concession entitlements, who are only required to pay $52.20 a month.


Victoria is currently one of only two states in Australia which denies international students public transport concessions.

According to the Department of Education and Training, the international education industry was worth $2.9 billion to the Victorian economy in the 2005-06 financial year. In contrast, the National Liaison Committee for Australian international students estimates extending public transport concessions to international students would only cost $22.5 million - a fraction of these international students’ contribution to the Victorian economy. As a matter of equity and fairness they should receive a student public transport concession like their Victorian counterparts.

It is also interesting to note that international students are entitled to purchase concession rates at Hoyts Cinemas and the Melbourne Zoo. But on public transport, the Victorian Government has continued to deny this important necessity for our international students. It is illogical that the Victorian Government continues to discriminate against them while the rest of the community does not.

International students play a huge part in maintaining our cultural diversity and engagement with the world. We must ensure that they receive the equal respect and opportunities as their Victorian counterparts. Their potential and abilities are limitless. We can’t put a price on that.

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About the Author

Jieh-Yung Lo is a Melbourne based writer and Associate Producer of the upcoming documentary film New Gold Mountain - Your Chinese Australia.

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