Statement of support for international students living through the COVID-19 pandemic

Statement of support for international students living through the COVID-19 pandemic

5 May 2020

International students are valued and important members of the Australian community. Orygen is committed to working with federal and state governments, education providers and international student organisations to ensure international students are provided with the supports and services they need through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019 there were more than 750,000 international students studying in Australia. These students make an incredible contribution to Australian communities. They enrich our cultural fabric, and bring new perspectives from around the world into Australian classrooms and workplaces.

International students were among the first to be significantly impacted personally, educationally and economically by the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions introduced in January and February prevented many Chinese students from arriving in, or returning to, Australia to commence the 2020 academic year. Others who had arrived before the restrictions were among the first to experience physical isolation and quarantine.

Since that time, the repercussions from this unprecedented global event have impacted all international and domestic students, as well as staff across the entire education sector. Many international students were employed in a range of industries, such as hospitality and retail, that have been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, they have lost paid employment and are struggling to meet their basic needs such as accommodation and food, all while dealing with the stress of separation from family and other support networks in their home country. Some students would prefer to return home but are unable to due to the costs involved and travel bans.

Many education providers have been required to move to online delivery. Without face-to-face classes international students, especially those who are newly arrived and who live alone, have found themselves isolated in a foreign country without much social support.

The Australian education sector has demonstrated its strong support of international students, with many universities and education providers developing and delivering support packages, emergency funds and access to welfare services to assist students through this period. A regularly updated list is provided by Study in Australia and can be accessed here:

A number of state governments have also provided increased support to international students. Orygen welcomes these recent announcements including the Victorian Government’s $45 million package and the South Australian Government’s $13.8 million plan to support international students facing hardship due to COVID-19.

The mental health repercussions of this pandemic are likely to be significant and lasting for many individuals in our communities, including international students. In January and February this year, Orygen undertook consultations with education providers and international students across Australia to understand more about the challenges they experience and gather examples of best practice for supporting the mental health and physical safety of international students on behalf of the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment. Orygen expects the resulting report to provide the sector with information and best practice examples that may be helpful when developing future support programs aimed at international students, including the immediate need for support in response to the pandemic.

Links to further information:

Study in Australia - resource hub

National Hardship Fund

For students experiencing hardship and seeking financial or other supports: 

Australian Government
South Australia
Western Australia
Northern Territory
Australian Capital Territory