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Overseas Students In Desperate Struggle To Survive

Written by: Ned K. on 25 April 2020


The other day I heard from a new migrant friend the story of two overseas students from a small Asian country who got stood down from their jobs in the kitchen of a city cafe.

The cafe stood all the workers down due to the Corona Virus shut downs ordered by the government. The overseas students had no income to pay rent or buy daily necessities because they were not eligible for Job Seeker or Job Keeper.
They heard by word of mouth from visa workers from their home country that there was work picking in the Riverland near Mildura. They had no idea where that was but asked a friend if he would drive them to the Riverland. All they knew about the job was that they had one day to get there and they were given the address of a share house in the Riverland. They would be working for a visa worker who came from the same country as them.
The friend agreed to take them up to the Riverland share house. When they arrived, they found the house was accommodation for about 10 workers. They met their boss and he told them that he worked for a farmer who had oranges that needed picking but they would not be ready for another week. They would be paid $10 per hour and work a ten-hour day. The rent was $100 per week per worker. As the oranges were not yet ready to pick their boss had organised some other laboring work for them on the farm for the first week. He said he got paid $15 an hour by the farmer.
The overseas students were not happy with the situation but stayed because $10 an hour without tax was better than starving and sleeping on the streets.
As far as I know they are still there and likely to stay there for at least a few months.
My friend said that international students are often portrayed in the media and by government as all being from rich families and that all they have to do to get money is contact their parents back home and the money flows. He said this is far from the case and the majority of overseas students do get assistance from their families to pay the up-front tertiary fees for their first year study.
However, for living costs day to day they have to work. This is consistent with some of the research which finds that about 80% of overseas students need to work to live.
That they and other temporary visa holders who work are denied Job Keeper or Job Seeker is unjust say the least. It is also something that will come back to bite the lucrative export industry of overseas student exploitation that underpins the business of Universities who have come to rely on them for finances but who have abandoned them in their hour of need.


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