By Genevieve Waldie
Of the 700,000 international students enrolled in Australian tertiary institutions, more than 20,000 are currently stranded in Queensland – isolated far from family and friends.
Most of these students are unable to go home due to travel restrictions or fears of a worse situation in their own country. Many of those who chose to stay, have lost their jobs and do not qualify for JobKeeper or other government assistance packages.
After a few uncertain weeks – the future is now looking brighter for the students with a range of initiatives including hardship funds, food banks, fee waivers and pastoral care.
On April 22, the Queensland Government allocated an initial support package of services.
Since then, the State has more than tripled its support for students, boosting its assistance package to a total of $15 million including the announcement this week of a one-off support payment to students.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said families of international students can be re-assured the students are being cared for.
“These are mostly young people far from home and unable to get home because of the pandemic. I want their parents to know their children are being looked after the same as we would want our children looked after if they were in another country,” she said.
Through Study Queensland, students are able to connect with professional support counsellors via a digital platform for assistance with mental health, visa issues, crisis accommodation and other essential needs.
“We must take care of struggling students…Students are juggling a range of challenges including loss of work, separation from friends and family and severe anxiety. This online tool will put these students in contact with professionals who can help them,” Queensland Minister for Innovation and Tourism Development, Kate Jones said.
With flights cancelled and our borders shut, many of these students are stranded in Queensland.”
As part of this support package, from the start of May, international students started receiving thousands of meals, part of a partnership between Study Brisbane, Foodbank QLD and FareShare.
Each week 10,000 ready to eat meals will be delivered to Study Brisbane’s network of education providers for distribution to their international students.
“We must show support to those who have chosen to live and study in our community,” affirmed Sara Harrup, CEO of Foodbank QLD.
This week Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also announced the Study Queensland Luhrmann Appeal, a partnership with Lilly Luhrmann (daughter of film director Baz Luhrmann) to help international students impacted by COVID-19.
“We are calling on Queenslanders to dig deep to support our international students with financial assistance, laptops, meal vouchers or internet data packages,” said Ms Luhrmann.
Baz Luhrmann said he was proud of Lilly’s passion to help others
“This is Lilly’s baby – I’m just the proud dad. It’s also that Queensland thing – where everyone helps everyone – that is so good to be part of.”
Further information for students
Brisbane Student Hub on (07) 3337 5400.
Study Queensland Facebook page will announce when the one-off payment portal is open.
Any Queenslanders who wished to donate goods or money can contact www.givit.org.au