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Victoria launches $45m relief fund for international students

Image: Bentleigh electorate [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Payments of up to $1,100 will be provided alongside rent and mental health support

Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria, has announced a $45 million relief package to help international students in the state who are affected by Covid-19 restrictions.

The package is linked to other state support including free legal aid and access to mental health services. In addition, more than 150,000 international students living in Victoria are eligible for the state’s rent relief programme, which provides subsidies of up to $2,000.

Those who are legally allowed to work while completing their degrees will also be able to apply for support under a state government assistance programme that helps people who have lost jobs as a result of pandemic-induced workplace closures.

In a social media post, Andrews rebuked prime minister Scott Morrison for suggesting that foreign students should “go home” if they were struggling financially as a result of the pandemic. Andrews said thousands of international students were “doing it tough” and that going home was not an option for them.

“International students contribute over $12 billion to the Victorian economy every single year. They support almost 80,000 jobs in our higher education sector. And right now, thousands are doing it tough,” Andrews wrote.

“They’re away far from home, out of work and struggling to get by. Many are living off drained super funds, loans and limited university aid. The majority aren’t eligible for Centrelink [unemployment benefits] or rent assistance—and ‘going back home’ simply isn’t an option. If we don’t help support them, it won’t be just their education that suffers. More jobs will be lost, the hit to our economy will be bigger, and our recovery will take much longer.”

Andrews said the $45m emergency relief fund would provide a one-off payment of up to $1,100 to international students in need, while “expanding emergency provisions for those experiencing exceptional circumstances”.  

The payments, which require co-contributions from university hardship funds, will build on existing state government support provided to international students through the Study Melbourne centre.

“Like so many people during this pandemic, international students have been affected by casual job losses in retail and hospitality, making it even tougher for them to make ends meet,” Andrews said.

“Many have also fallen through the cracks of federal government programmes—unable to access the support they need to support themselves.”