QTU steps in to help international TAFE students
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 4, 5 June 2020, page no. 18
While many in the community have been disadvantaged by the COVID-19 crisis, there are those among us who have not had any government support and are finding survival a struggle.
These include the international student cohorts studying at our universities and TAFE colleges. They were informed by the federal government that if they were not in a position to support themselves, they should consider returning to their home countries, however for many there is no capacity to return home and no capacity for families to provide material support to them while they are in Australia studying. Many are struggling to pay rent and tuition fees and have had little or nothing left over to buy food or hygiene necessities.
This prompted members of TAFE Executive to call on the QTU to consider providing material support to the TAFE Queensland international student cohort via TAFE Queensland International. In response, QTU Executive passed a resolution approving the purchase of Woolworths gift vouchers.
On 29 May, QTU Vice-President Cresta Richardson and I had an opportunity to bring some much-needed relief and smiles to the faces of students studying at TAFE Queensland, handing the gift vouchers to Janelle Chapman, Executive Director of TAFE Queensland International. We were also able to personally present vouchers to some of the students in need. It was an opportunity to discover something of the journey these guests to our country have been on during the crisis.
As one extremely grateful student said: “Because we are far from our home town, at first we felt isolated and very alone. But after the virus, they contacted us and said if you need anything or you feel alone, you can talk to us and come to (TAFE Queensland) Southbank (Campus) to get some food and at the same time talk to them about the situation and how they can help. Which makes me feel like I have family and I am not alone anymore.”
The vouchers will be distributed according to need and could end up assisting TAFE’s international students studying anywhere across Queensland.
TAFE Queensland has approximately 2,600 international student visa holders and approximately 500 other visa holders studying across the state. The closure of many businesses in response to the COVID -19 pandemic has impacted negatively on many of these TAFE Queensland International students. Many students support themselves by working in hospitality and tourism industries while studying, and these industries have been among the most significantly affected by the social distancing requirements and temporary business closures, meaning that substantial numbers of international students have been without income since the lockdowns commenced.
Some material support has been organised under the auspices of TAFE Queensland International, with TAFE Queensland working to assist international students who have been left unemployed and unsupported during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, hundreds of international students have received care packages, which have been donated by staff, local charities and the wider community. Indeed, the Faculty of Tourism, Hospitality and Personal Services at TAFE Queensland Brisbane has provided fruit, vegetables and dairy products that were surplus to training provision requirements, and many hundreds of packaged meals have been provided, as well as fresh food.