“The principles fill a gap in the current environment.” said Dr Helen Szoke, race discrimination commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
“In short, they offer a foundation on which the international student experience can be based – not just for the benefit of the students themselves, but for the benefit of all Australians.”
The four principles include enhancing the human rights of international students; ensuring all international students have access to human rights and freedom from discrimination protections; understanding the diverse needs of international students; and empowering international students during their stay in Australia
More specific suggestions concern creating opportunities for international students to interact with local students, securing affordable and safe accommodation, and providing access to gender-specific health services.
Szoke said the principles were meant to raise awareness rather than be exhaustive. “These principles are the broad brush – they paint the picture, they set the scene, they focus our gaze on what is and should be possible,” she said.
The principles are broad and straightforward, intended to create awareness around the issue
Australia, which hosted over 500,000 international students in 2011, has been a driving force in welfare development after dealing with a spate of attacks on Indian students in 2010 and cases of landlord exploitation. In 2010 it launched the Council of International Students Australia, a body dedicated to advocating on behalf of international students.
The European Association of International Education (EAIE), which launched its own charter for international student rights last month, lauded Australia’s efforts. “I think [Australia] has come very, very far and they work in a very interesting way,” outgoing president of the association, Gudrun Paulsdottir, told The PIE News. “Now they have a council of universities that advises the government on these issues. I mean that’s a dream scenario.”