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Sydney organisation steps up to support Indian international students in Australia amid COVID-induced hardships

Sydney organisation steps up to support Indian international students in Australia. Source: Supplied by Gurnam Singh

Sydney-based Australian-Indian Sports Educational and Cultural Society (AISECS) hosted a special event on 3 June to support international students in New South Wales facing financial and emotional hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The event was held in partnership with Study NSW and the Consulate General of India, Sydney.

Many international students who chose to stay in Australia during the pandemic to continue their studies had to deal with challenges, including having to live alone and enduring job losses as a result of the COVID-prompted lockdowns.


Highlights:

  • Sydney's AISECS steps up to support international students in Australia
  • The event was held in partnership with Study NSW and the Consulate General of India, Sydney
  • 'International students currently in Australia need our support': Gurnam Singh
  • NSW and SA initiate plans to bring international students back to Australia

Sydney-based Hardeep Singh, a hospitality student who lost his job as a kitchen hand in February, says he felt alone and vulnerable but decided to stay back because he feared going back could mean an endless wait to return to Australian shores as borders continue to remain shut.

“Every time I gave up and decided to travel back to my family in India, I would think of hundreds of students stranded offshore who are desperate to return. And I don’t want to live with that uncertainty, so I thought it would be best to stay in Australia even if it meant no job and no on-campus studies,” the 26-year says.

‘You’re not alone’

Gurnam Singh
AISECS founder, Gurnam Singh addresses an event in Sydney dedicated to international students.
Supplied by Gurnam Singh

AISECS founder Gurnam Singh, who has stepped up to help such students in New South Wales, said there is an urgent need to support international students, many of whom face mental health issues due to the ongoing border restrictions.

“On 3 June, we organised an event, ‘Care, Connection and Community’, that was solely dedicated to international students in NSW in partnership with Study NSW and Consulate General of India, Sydney (CGI Sydney),” he said.

“I was inspired to organise this event because it was brought to my attention that many students who have lost their loved ones in the second deadly wave of COVID in India could not travel home and had to grieve alone here in Australia in the absence of any support system. Through this event, we wanted to assure them that they are not alone,” Mr Singh said.

Nearly 75 international students attended the event. The Consul General of India Manish Gupta, Consul General of Nepal Deepak Khadka, Superintendent NSW Police Samantha Ford, CEO of Cricket Australia Nick Hockley, and mental health speaker from Headspace, Karishma Rajan Menon also attended the event.

"We have also planned to support students who have start-up business ideas here in Australia through a unique initiative. Those with viable ideas will be mentored, given guidance and monetary support to get their projects off the ground," Mr Singh said.

AISECS Gurnam Singh
AISECS event for international students in Sydney.
Supplied by Gurnam Singh

Nick Hockley, who steered Cricket Australia through the pandemic, presented a Chennai Super Kings - an Indian Premier League (IPL) team's jersey to the lucky student picked as the raffle ticket winner at the event.

Drawing on the Indian students' love for the sport, the newly-appointed CEO also spoke in length about the career opportunities available for youngsters in the industry.

Mr Singh also thanked Indian CGI and the support provided by the NSW government through Study NSW for this event.

"AISECS acknowledges and thanks the Indian Consulate General for hosting this event and acknowledges the support provided by the NSW Government through Study NSW for initiating this event and making it possible," he said.

Offshore students:

Besides students who decided to stay back, many had travelled to their home country and were caught out by the sudden border restrictions imposed by the Australian government in March 2020 that prohibits the entry of temporary visa holders into the country without an inward travel exemption.

Mr Singh said he is regular consultations with the state and the federal government over plans to fly back foreign students.

“We are in regular talks with the NSW and the federal government and are pushing them to bring back international students from countries like India, where students are stuck in large numbers. I understand that NSW Cabinet has approved such a plan to fly back students as early as August,” he added.

The South Australian government has also pitched a student return plan to the federal government. If approved, 160 students will be brought in at a time as part of the plan who will spend two weeks in quarantine at a Parafield Airport facility in Adelaide, in the city’s north.

 

Click on the player above to listen to this interview in Punjabi.

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