Calls to support international students

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Thousands of international students across the region have been pushed into poverty because of the coronavirus crisis.

More than 2,000 international students from the University of Newcastle remain in the state, including many whose jobs disappeared overnight.

According to Business NSW, an action plan is needed to help international students back into the state to help rebuild the education sector and local economy.

Hunter Business Chamber Chief Executive, Bob Hawes, says international students contribute significantly to the local workforce and economy.

“First of all, they are fee paying students, so, they do contribute a lot to the economy,” he says.

“They choose to come to Newcastle and go out and spend money and find accommodation, they are very active in the community and a lot of them end up staying as they move into their careers.”

Mr Hawes says, moving forward, a plan needs to be made to reopen the national borders to allow international students in and out of the country.

“While we appreciate the need for extreme caution in reopening the national border, we encourage the development of a return-to-study strategy to give students, teaching staff and universities more certainty about the path forward,” he says.

Newcastle Federal MP Sharon Claydon has called on the government to give these students more support.

She says the State Government’s $20 million investment for temporary crisis accommodation and support for the cohort is “welcome, but manifestly insufficient to fix this dire humanitarian issue”.

“I’m deeply worried about these students who are now stranded in poverty, without income, personal support or any realistic means of leaving Australia,” Ms Claydon says.

“The Morrison Government’s excuse that students can just go home or work more hours are patently ludicrous in the face of closed borders, grounded planes and an unprecedented economic and global jobs crisis.” 

Ms Claydon adds this is not just a humanitarian issue, but also an economic disaster in the making.

“Providing a lifeline to international students isn’t just the right thing to do – it could also deliver a multi-billion reprieve to students, universities and the broader economy with the stroke of the Minister’s pen.”