Inner Melbourne Community Legal
During this difficult time, there are a number of legal support systems
that international students have available to them. Inner Melbourne Community Legal
(IMCL) has been helping international students by providing a range of
resources to help identify and resolve legal issues.
International students are such an important part of Victoria's cultural
life and diversity. Yet, because of lack of awareness of their legal
rights, language barriers and lack of social support, they are especially
vulnerable to exploitation during COVID-19.
The main issues faced by international students
As identified by Inner Melbourne Community Legal, there are four main areas
where international students have been experiencing significant issues
during this time. These are:
"Common employment issues during the pandemic have included international
students' having their work hours reduced, underpayment, safety issues
relating to the virus and being hired as a contractor instead of an
employee. COVID-19 is a difficult time for businesses, but it's important
that students know their rights at work and where to get free help so that
they are not treated unfairly or exploited."
"Before the pandemic, a UNSW study revealed that more than half of
international students in Australia were being exploited by landlords by
being tricked into paying for accommodation that doesn't exist, being
intimidated or harassed, and being unfairly evicted. With COVID-19, it is
likely that these problems have significantly increased. It is really
important for students having problems with their landlord to know their
housing rights and seek free legal help."
"The physical distancing measures imposed due to COVID-19 means that people
are spending more time at home with partners or family members who they do
not feel safe with. Things like loss of employment and financial stress
also increase the risk of someone in your home making you feel scared, sad
or controlled. It can be hard for international students to seek help if
they don't know where to get help and don't have many social supports in
Australia, or if they think this behaviour is normal. Students should know
that they are not alone, and that there are things they can do and people
who can help."
"Many students are experiencing financial distress and may be having
difficulty paying for things like public transport tickets. Police have
also issued over 6000 substantial fines to people for breaking physical
distancing and quarantine measures. If a student receives a fine and they
want to challenge it or cannot pay it, they shouldn't ignore it. They can
get free help from a community lawyer who can help them find a solution."
Students seeking support
As outlined by Inner Melbourne Community Legal, where students should seek
help will depend on the problem they are experiencing. In response to the
pandemic, they have developed the
International Student Legal Information
resource to make the process simpler.
"We knew that to make a difference, it wasn't enough to provide support to
international students once they already had a serious legal issue. We
wanted to address the problem much earlier by making sure that students
knew their legal rights and where to get free help as soon as they had a
problem. Ideally, we want to prevent problems from developing in the first
International Student Legal Information
is a free online … resource designed to help international students in
Victoria identify their legal issue and learn about the pathways to free
help for different problems connected with where they live, work and
To make the information as accessible as possible, the resource uses
scenarios based on the real-life experiences of international students and
is translated across four different languages: English, 中文, Tiếng Việt and
In addition, international students can also get information and support,
including mental health assistance and legal advice services, from the
Study Melbourne Student Centre
(contact the Student Centre by email or call 1800 056 449).
"Know that you are not alone and that there are always things you can do
and people who can help. Do not hesitate to seek legal help," shares IMCL.
"Even if you are not sure your problem is a legal problem, your local
community legal centre
can point you in the right direction to get support."