Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan):
My adjournment matter is directed to the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Minister for Racing, Minister for Industry Support and Recovery, Minister for Trade and Minister for Business Precincts, the Honourable Martin Pakula, MP. This adjournment matter relates to the portfolio responsibilities of trade.
Education is one of the biggest exports Victoria has. International education generated billions in revenue for Victoria and supported tens of thousands of jobs pre-pandemic. Students in Victoria come from China, India, Nepal, Malaysia and Vietnam, among over 100 countries. International students have also felt the brunt of the global pandemic, and they need our support.
Last year we supported over 33 000 international students in Victoria who faced financial hardship through lost wages and work as a result of the coronavirus—COVID-19—pandemic through the International Student Emergency Relief Fund. We expanded that support through the extreme hardship support program.
We are further supporting international students through a range of other investments.
The government has committed to be a major sponsor of the inaugural 2022 Melbourne International Student Week. The festival will connect international students to the Victorian community and showcase the benefits of international education to the wider population. This festival will be delivered by the Committee for Melbourne at Federation Square.
Further, the latest round of the international student welfare program provides $625 000 for 17 projects addressing priority issues for international students including social isolation, sexual and mental health and employability.
It is in Victoria’s interest to see the international education sector recover. Therefore, the Andrews Labor government is investing $50.9 million, as outlined in the 2021–22 Victorian budget, to support recovery, including to continue the Study Melbourne brand, the Study Melbourne Student Centre and the Study Melbourne inclusion and empowered programs. This funding also continues the expanded Global Education Network and offshore Study Melbourne hubs and promotes Victoria as the best location to get education in regions like South-East Asia.
And last month the government announced $50 million for the International Education Resilience Fund. This fund will support Victorian university initiatives for international students, including welfare and support services and increased student engagement programs and events.
These new investments will enhance the experience of over 85 000 international students in Victoria.
The action I seek from the minister is to provide me with an update on how these new investments in the wellbeing of our international student community will assist students in the Western Metropolitan Region.
MARTIN PAKULA MP, Minister for Trade(4 Feb 2022):
International students are valuable members of our community and we welcome their return to Victoria. The first group of students entered Victoria as part of our Student Arrivals Plan on 3 December 2021 from Singapore, with groups from China, India, South East Asia and the Middle East arriving later across December and January 2022. Now that borders are open for international student visa holders, eligible fully vaccinated international student visa holders do not need to be part of the Student Arrivals Plan to enter Victoria.
The Victorian Government has led the nation in investing in programs and services to support international students over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic. These programs and services are of benefit to international students throughout Victoria, including in the Western Metropolitan Region.
The Victorian Government’s investment of $50.9 million through the 2021/22 Budget supports a range of student-focused initiatives. These initiatives include:
- The Study Melbourne Student Centre, which delivers critical engagement, support and referral services to international students in Victoria. The centre includes a free and confidential legal service – the International Student Employment and Accommodation Legal Service – staffed by independent lawyers specialising in work rights and tenancy law.
- The Study Melbourne Empowered Program, which helps international students maximise their opportunities through a strengths-based approach to student employability, entrepreneurship and empowerment.
- The Study Melbourne Inclusion Program, which builds sector capacity, innovation and partnerships to deliver international student initiatives through grants to student organisations, education providers and community organisations.
The Victorian Government is also supporting international students enrolled at Victorian universities through our $50 million International Education Resilience Fund (IERF). Under the fund, students will be able to access increased student welfare and support services, improved online and remote teaching delivery, as well as increased student engagement initiatives for students studying offshore or in Victoria.
As part of this, we are working closely with Victoria University to ensure international students in the Western Metropolitan Region are offered boosted welfare supports and an enhanced learning experience.