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One in seven university students regularly go without food and other necessities because of affordability reasons, according to the Universities Australia Student Finances Survey 2017.
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13 Aug 2018 - 3:52 PM  UPDATED 13 Aug 2018 - 3:52 PM

“Disappointed and dejected,” is how 29-year-old Damandeep Singh describes his life in Australia.

Riding on the dream of making it big in a foreign land, the otherwise buoyant Mr Singh who is a qualified civil engineer from Ludhiana city in Punjab landed in Melbourne nearly sixteen months ago, along with his wife Dolly, who is on a student visa.

Speaking with SBS Punjabi, Mr Singh said, “All I ever wanted was a home and a job, but what I have got until now are rejections and struggles.”

The couple leaves home at 7am in the morning nearly every day. While Mrs Singh dashes off to university to attend classes, Mr Singh targets one suburb a week, knocking at almost every other Indian grocery store, sometimes fuel stations and other shops in the hope of finding “any” job.

“The money that we brought along from India has all been consumed by college fees and rent,” he said. 

“We literally have had days when we survived on a single meal comprising a loaf of garlic bread that we’d cut in half, heat it on the makeshift oven and go to sleep."

But the couple aren't the only ones doing it tough. 

According to figures released on Monday by the Universities Australia Student Finances Survey 2017, at least one in seven university students regularly go without food and other necessities because of affordability reasons.

“Everywhere I look, the story is the same,” says Amandeep Kaur, who arrived in Tasmania with her husband a month ago.

“I have realised one thing that life here especially in Tasmania is going to be very difficult. We have been trying to get a job, but have failed so far,” she said.

“Jobless and foodless” is the new normal in Tasmania says community leader Loveleen Gupta who migrated from India as a student in 2006.

Mr Gupta, however, is one of the fortunate few who have managed to establish himself, unlike thousands of others who are struggling to find a foothold in Tasmania, where the unemployment rate has risen to its highest level in 12 months - as per the latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Mr Gupta told SBS Punjabi, that the situation has gone from bad to worse in Tasmania in the past few months.

“Out of every 10 Indian students, at least six are unemployed,” claimed Mr Gupta who has become an emissary for many students looking for work. 

One person trying to keep the hope alive among students within the community is Balwinder Singh, who has taken it upon himself to end the misery of at least a handful of students who have become regulars at his food van stationed in Hobart's New Town. 

                      

The 29-year-old business student also from Punjab has started saving some of the food from his mobile eatery for his friends and acquaintances, for whom Mr Singh’s van has become a reliable resort for grub every night.

“I am a student and no one can understand their situation better than me,” he said.

“The average fee for a single semester is as high as $15,000. Imagine the plight of those who have no jobs.”

                     

“So I’m just doing my bit," said Mr Singh who is now planning to roll-out one free meal a day every week for students by the end of the year, with help from a few donors within the community.

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