Newcastle University Students' Association Submission on Universal Eligibility to Student Transport Concessions
Currently, NSW is one of only two states in Australia that discriminates against international students by not giving them the same rights as domestic students to obtain transport concessions. In 2006, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal substantiated three complaints that the NSW Government’s policy of not providing full-fee paying overseas university students with concession on public transport services contravened the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977(NSW) because it amounted to unlawful discrimination on the basis of nationality.
International students studying at the University of Newcastle Callaghan campus have been victims of robberies, break-ins, accommodation scams, verbal abuse and even physical attacks. Many of these have occurred in an area close to the Callaghan campus. International students often opt to walk to where they need to go, despite the fact that this compromises their safety, because they cannot afford to pay full fares on public transport
Many international students struggle to make ends meet. Because they are denied concession fares, they are thus forced to live within walking distance of the University in order to save money on transport. It is worth noting that the recent NSW Legislative Assembly, Social Policy Committee, Inquiry into International Student Accommodation recommended the introduction of transport concessions to international students as a means to encourage international students to seek accommodation further away.
The international student community studying at the Callaghan campus is convinced that a reduction in the rates of attack could be achieved by giving all international students transport concessions.
Overseas students contribute significantly to the state economy. According to an Access Economics analysis this contribution is almost $29,000 per student. In 2008, NSW received $173 million from international students in the form of GST.
Up until recently, Australia has enjoyed the benefits of the perception that Australia was a choice destination to study for overseas students. However, following the aforementioned attacks, this perception has since deteriorated, resulting in a decline in international student numbers.
At the Australian International Education Conference 2011, the Hon. Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, recommended that NSW and Victoria re-examine their approach to transport concessions for international students. NUSA submits that continuing to deny international students concession cards is seriously damaging Australia’s international reputation as a choice destination for international education.
By acknowledging that international students are primarily students who have a right to study in an equitable and safe environment in Australia and by implementing measures whereby this can be achieved, a reversal in the student number trend may be attained. A productive and simple start to this would be to uphold the decision of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal and give all international students the right to obtain transport concessions.