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Promoting the rights of international students

World University News    |     10 October 2012

For the first time, foreign students in Australia have their own ‘bill of rights’.  This follows the release by the Australian Human Rights Commission of a set of principles to promote and protect the rights of international students, which it says have too often been ignored by individuals and organisations.

The principles are set out under four main headings, with summary translations in 10 other languages:

  • Enhancing the human rights of international students.
  • Ensuring all international students have access to human rights and freedom from discrimination protections.
  • Understanding the diverse needs of international students.
  • Empowering international students during their stay in Australia.

Outlining the principles at a recent conference on Australia’s international education sector, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke said the aim is  to create discussion and awareness of student rights “where sometimes it does not exist”.

This awareness is essential, whether in terms of the obligations of organisations working with international students, or of the support students should expect during their time here.

She said some students experienced poverty, exclusion from health services or affordable housing, sexual harassment and exploitation, excessive transport costs, and prohibitive fees to access government schools for their children.

All this means that some international students experience life in Australia as second class members of the community, despite their hopes of a first class education. This is notwithstanding the fact that international students pay for this education; are taxed on any income they earn here; and are required to comply with domestic law like anybody else.

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