flood relief
Despite the severity of the Australian floods, international students have not benefitted from relief payments, claim students. Source: Saeed Khan / AFP

The recent Australian floods have upended the lives of many, including international students. The deluge continues to ravage areas in Queensland and New South Wales, but international students are left defenceless as there are no flood relief programmes available to them. 

Australia’s Disaster Recovery Payment programme aims to help victims to recover from the damages caused by the floods. As of now, these reliefs are only applicable to Australian citizens, permanent residents and several temporary visa holders, but international students are not included.

UQ Sikh Society vice president Ramneek Kaur said some students living in St Lucia had their houses completely demolished by the floods. Source: Patrick Hamilton/AFP

How the Australian floods are affecting international students

Daniel Gan, the treasurer of the University of Queensland (UQ) Malaysian Students’ Association, told PEDESTRIAN.TV that he was concerned about the number of Malaysian students who had their homes ravaged by the floods, adding that he was disappointed by the lack of government support.

“International students are a group that’s taken advantage of in every disaster. It’s as if it’s a given that we will stay here but we should be given a bit more prioritisation,” Gan was quoted saying. “I feel that we have a right. Even though we’re not Australian citizens, we do contribute.”

UQ Sikh Society vice president Ramneek Kaur said some students living in St Lucia had their houses completely demolished by the Australian floods and are in an unlivable state.

“They lost their laptops in the floodwater, their clothing — one messaged me this morning and she said she went to the laundromat and it took her three hours just to wash a small pile of clothes,” said Kaur.

The Australian floods have also thrown students’ budgets out of proportion. Kaur told PEDESTRIAN.TV that students came to Australia budgeting A$130 per week for rooms, but it is now impossible to find anything under $300 per week, leaving them financially and emotionally stressed.

Students associations have risen to the occasion to help students. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

How students are coping without flood reliefs

Many international students have no choice but to depend on themselves as the Australian floods continue. Several students associations have reached out — calling students to seek help from them if they are affected by the floods, while others have set up GoFundMe pages to help them cover the cost of their losses due to the floods.

The University of Queensland Sikh Society has offered those affected by the floods a free vegetarian meal.

Some small disaster reliefs are available for international students from the Queensland State Government, but Kaur said students are disappointed about the lack of support from the federal government.

What government officials are saying

Queensland Greens MPs including Member for Maiwar Michael Berkman have criticised the Liberal National Party federal government for not including international students in the disaster relief while many of them have been hit hard by the Australian floods.

“These students were screwed over when it came to COVID-19 payments and have once again been left behind by the LNP federal government,” Berkman told PEDESTRIAN.TV. “I’ve spoken with international students whose landlords have threatened to kick them out, who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, and have lost all of their possessions in the floodwaters.”

Several Greens members like Berkman have written to Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk to urge the federal government and add pressure on Scott Morrison to widen their criteria to include international students into the Australian flood reliefs.