Australia is one of the countries that attract many international students every year as many believe their top-notch education can significantly boost their employment prospects. However, life in Australia, is not all that rosy for many foreign students.

Australia is an expensive country and the cost of living, especially in places like Sydney can be extremely high. An average foreign student in Australia needs at least $18,000 AUD to manage his/her expenses for a year, excluding the tuition fee. As a result, many students need to take up part-time jobs and ended being exploited. Agents promoting study overseas in Australia often state that there are lots of job opportunities in Australia. The cold hard truth is, many international students struggle to find employment. Many employers specifically state that employment is solely for Australian citizens or permanent residents. Thus, many international students have problems getting past the screening process for a job. Even when foreign students are successfully hired, they are often subjected to high levels of wage theft according to a new report from the University of New South Wales and University of Technology Sydney. In some cases, some faced sexual harassments.

More than 54 per cent of students from China are grossly underpaid. Many are paid half of Australia’s legal minimum wage of $22 per hour. Some are even paid $7 per hour. Despite being exploited, they see no point in leaving their jobs as the chances of getting a better job is slim.

Students who are underpaid should contact the Australian Government’s Fair Work Ombudsman.

A recent study has also revealed that more than half of international students are also being exploited by landlords. One Chinese student shared that she had to pay more than $8000 up-front for her four-month lease and bond. Her landlord also charged her a weekly cleaning fee of $165 and a one-off fee of $75 for a mattress protector which she did not receive. An unauthorised credit card charge of $1,000 was also made by the landlord. Another student from India lamented that she lived in an overcrowded single room which had no sink in the kitchen. Some other students revealed that they were victims of exploitative practices such as having their rent almost doubled during exam periods. Many also found themselves living in unsafe accommodations where there were drugs in the property and had no proper toilets with locked doors.

New research has found that one in three students at government schools in New South Wales and Victoria suffer from racial discrimination by their peers. Sixty percent reported having seen another student being racially discriminated by their peers and a lot of times, school is not doing enough to protect foreign students. There were cases when teachers were racist and left international students feeling vulnerable and helpless. Some Asians were deliberately left out by their teachers in class. In other cases, lessons were delivered with no consideration and lack of sensitivity towards the foreign students. Some teachers allowed racist assumptions to be openly discussed and promoted by native students in the classroom. One teacher even told the students that Asians are taking over Australia and taking away all their jobs. Other students then began picking on the Asian students in the class and asking them to return to their home countries.

One day our descendants will think it is incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.

Franklin Thomas, philanthropist and civil rights activist

Report These Racist Behaviour to Relevant Authorities

  • Telling jokes that devalue particular cultural or ethnic groups
  • Labelling students of particular ethnic or cultural groups so that they are perceived according to stereotypes rather than as individuals
  • Neglecting students of particular cultural groups than to others
  • Making demeaning comments about particular cultural or ethnic groups
  • Refusing to make allowances for English language support needs for students from non-English speaking backgrounds
  • Urging students from particular groups to leave school because teachers believe they have little hope of success in schooling, based on a stereotyped view of that group.

    It is important to report to your embassy in Australia or to Council of International Students Australia. Keeping silent is not the option. Remember not all locals are against international students. You are not alone and do not be afraid to seek help.