By Richa Mistry:
Since becoming our national anthem in 1984, we have sung “Advance Australia Fair” countless times. Is it fair to everyone? Let’s discuss.
The citizens have many benefits; concession opal cards, HECS help, lower fees, Medicare and many more. What about the individuals who aren’t citizens? What about the numerous international students that land here with hopes of a better future? Their dreams consist of a good education, respectable earnings, and better quality of life. Instead they are faced with laws and regulations that are unfair. But, let’s start at the beginning.
Leaving their family and friends behind, these young individuals give up many things in hopes for a better future. Like giddy children, they are excited to see a new beautiful country that they have only heard about or seen in pictures. Upon landing here, they are greeted by the beauty of Australia and the many wonderful things it has to offer, such as the multicultural environment. But is it what they hoped for?
Soon they are sharing a house with a few other international students and paying their share of high rents. Paying the expenses isn’t easy. Many employers are unwilling to hire international students and those who do get hired are often exploited. Working 10-15 hours a day with a bare minimum wage of $10-15 is their daily routine. Legal working hours for these students are only 20 hours per week but at this rate they will earn only $300 per week. That is not enough for rents, groceries, bills among many other expenses. Their option; working at other jobs for long hours and earn cash to avoid being caught.
University fees for a citizen are approximately $4000-7000 (depending on the course and university) per semester. For the record, an international student pays $11,000-$16,000 semester. University education for them isn’t about learning anymore, rather a chore. Whatever happened to equal rights to education? Everyone fights for equal rights to education in developing nations, yet no one knows about the conditions in their own country. With no HECS help, they work multiple jobs to be able to pay these fees. Any time left in between jobs is spent trying to complete assignments or study for exams.
All they want now is to pass. While some fail multiple subjects and repeat the subjects, others excel at their course. Those who fail pay excessive fees again and those who pass gain nothing. Almost all of the internships offered to students are not open to international students. Reason; unknown. Any programs such as the Australia- China Bridging Program, offered this year, are not open to international students. Reason; unknown. Travel Concession cards are not provided either. Reason; unknown. Medicare is not provided, and they pay high charges to see a doctor and buy the medicines required.
Away from family, friends, culture and traditional celebrations these students’ dreams are shattered. Working full time and studying full time, they earn to pay the fees and any savings left are often sent home to show the parents that yes, they are happy and earning. Their real conditions is never discussed or known. Yet, we sing “Advance Australia Fair”.
*Please note, all values used are approximations and do vary.