International students demand travel concessions

International students from universities across Sydney rallied to press their demand on August 14. Photo: Peter Boyle

International students handed over thousands of signed petitions calling for travel concessions for international students to Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi outside state parliament on August 14.

About 30 international students from universities across Sydney rallied to press their demand. New South Wales is the only state that does not provide travel concessions for international students.

Faruqi called public transport a "basic human right" and "a matter of social justice". 

"We're not actually affording [international students] the same respect that every other student in NSW has, and every other student in every other state has," she said.

She noted that in 2016-17, international students brought in $7.2 billion to NSW. 

Christa, an Indonesian student and University of New South Wales Student Representative Council (SRC) representative, said: “It’s almost like the government on one hand is shaking our hand firmly saying: ‘Welcome to Australia, you can study with us,’ but on the other hand you’re giving us a hard slap in the face.”

Geena, an Indian student and Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association council member, told the crowd how she has to complete 8-10 months of full-time, unpaid work placement for her social studies course. 

On top of other travel costs, she spends $50 a week just to travel to and from her placement. 

“I also have to accept that I can’t have a social life,” she said. “Plain and simple, I can’t afford that travel.” 

“I feel this is indicative of racism because it is a by-product of this policy. Since most of us are non-white, it is easier to have a discriminatory policy. 

“It also reminds me of a certain boat policy”, Geena said in reference to the federal government's policy towards asylum seekers arriving by boat.

Sydney University SRC president Imogen Grant described how a Pakistani student was bashed in Newcastle on August 11. “This intense racist climate that exists, created and supported by the mainstream press and politicians, allows for the state to discriminate against international students."

Fix NSW Transport activist Andrew Chuter chastised the state Coalition government’s $50 billion commitment to the WestConnex toll road project, saying: “If they just gave a mere fraction, one thousandth of that money, to support international students to have concessions, this would be a much better use of that money.”

[Check out more photos from the rally here.]