A Guide to COVID-19 Support for Students in New South Wales

nsw international student covid support

This article is sponsored by Study NSW

Studying during the coronavirus pandemic can be challenging, but there are plenty of support systems in place for students across Australia. If you’re studying in New South Wales, call the NSW Government hotline (13 77 88) and read below to find out about initiatives designed to assist international students during this time. 

Accommodation

If you’re feeling insecure in your current financial situation, there are many support networks to ensure you stay safe and comfortable during the coronavirus pandemic. 

For students struggling to maintain a stable residence during COVID-19 due to financial pressure, the NSW Government is providing temporary crisis accommodation available by application. Applications are open now, and more information can be sought through the NSW Government hotline (13 77 88) or the Service NSW website.

The state government will also be enforcing a six-month moratorium on rental evictions during COVID-19, meaning that you may be able to request reduced or suspended rent. Talk to your landlord to discuss temporary changes to your lease, and for further information on your rights as a tenant, reach out to the International Student Legal Service NSW or the Tenants’ Union of New South Wales. Other excellent resources for tenancy issues include NSW Fair Trading and Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services, which provide informational resources and advocate for international student tenants. 

If COVID-19 has left you struggling to pay household energy bills, the NSW Government’s Access to Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) Scheme has you covered. The scheme involves an eligibility assessment to prove reduced income due to the coronavirus pandemic. It provides electronic EAPA vouchers sent to your energy retailer, which are used to credit home gas and electricity accounts. You can apply online for EAPA vouchers, but they are limited and based on assessment. 

Students looking for discounted emergency accommodation may also contact the Australian Homestay Network, an organisation providing homestay for international students financially affected by COVID-19 under their International Student Support Network program. 

Other accommodation resources in NSW include: 

  • Ask Izzy, which assists people at risk of homelessness
  • City of Sydney Community Hotline (02 9265 9333) 
  • Wayside Chapel, which provides showers, food and other assistance
  • Rough Edges, which offers takeaway dinners and counselling services

Legal support

For international students seeking advice regarding tenancy, university fees, employment and visa conditions during COVID-19, there are multiple legal support options in NSW. 

The multilingual My Legal Mate app is designed to support international students so they can understand their legal rights in Australia, and to maintain security during the coronavirus pandemic. The app is available in English, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Portuguese, Thai and Vietnamese, and can help you gather important information in an easy, accessible way. The NSW Government has offered 50,000 free downloads of the My Legal Mate for international students. Visit the Study NSW website to apply for free access to the app.

The International Student Legal Service NSW gives international students free legal advice provided by Redfern Legal Centre. During COVID-19, this confidential assistance will be supplied through phone and online appointments, and covers issues such as fines, debt, car accidents, housing problems, discrimination, employment, domestic violence, university complaints, family law and students visas. Enquiries can be made via the free Check-In app, or, if you need help accessing an online form, call Law Access on 1300 888 529. Contact TIS National (131 450) for interpreting assistance. 

In partnership with Legal Aid NSW and LawAccess NSW, the NSW Government has launched a free legal help service for people facing legal issues under the COVID-19 public health laws. International students are also eligible to use these services. Phone 1300 888 529 for further information, or visit the Legal Aid NSW website

Mental health

Mental health support is paramount to managing your studies during COVID-19. The following resources and organisations cater to students from around the world and are accessible in multiple languages, ensuring all students can maintain their wellbeing during this time. 

Helplines are a great option for students practising social distancing protocols. Time 2 Talk, a free phone support service, focuses on managing the effects of COVID-19 as an individual, couple or household. The service is staffed by professional social workers and relationship counsellors. Phone 1300 022 966. 

Other professional helplines include: 

  • Mental Health Hotline (1800 011 511)
  • Headspace (1800 650 890)
  • Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800)
  • National Coronavirus Helpline (1800 020 080)
  • Lifeline (13 11 14)

For non-English speakers, Lifeline is offering a free interpreting service. Call Translating and Interpreting Services (TIS National) on 131 450 and ask to speak to Lifeline (13 11 14) in your required language. 

The NSW Government’s COVID-19 hotline (13 77 88) is also able to provide students with mental health support, as well as advice on other areas, such as legal assistance and medical issues. 

Mental Health Australia’s social awareness and connection campaign has been created to bring awareness to mental health while social distancing. The hashtag #LookAfterYourMentalHealthAustralia can be followed on social media, and is a fantastic resource for those looking for positive content during COVID-19.

Youth Beyond Blue, Beyond Blue, Embrace Multicultural Mental Health, Life in Mind, Head to Health and Transcultural Mental Health Centre are other excellent organisations for those looking for mental health resources and tips for coping during the coronavirus pandemic. These organisations provide meaningful support through their websites, including multilingual information and COVID-19 specific advice.

Food hampers

International students in need of food relief can receive a free food hamper at the OzHarvest Hamper Hub. Launched as a partnership between the City of Sydney, OzHarvest, nib Health Funds and Mirvac, the Hamper Hub is offering food hampers and frozen cooked meals to international students and temporary visa holders. There are two Hamper Hub locations (Darling Harbour and Rhodes) and students can register through their education provider. For more information, and to find out where else to seek food relief, visit the International Student Welfare Services Hub.

Virtual engagement, activities and workshops

Study NSW is committed to ensuring the ongoing engagement and growth of international students during COVID-19 and will be offering virtual engagement programs throughout this time. Check out the Study NSW Facebook page for regular updates on virtual engagement opportunities. 

Regular webinars are available for free through the City of Sydney, including business lectures, yoga classes, dance lessons and comedy shows. Webinars are a fantastic opportunity to enjoy new experiences from the safety of your home, and can help you feel connected while you’re social distancing. 

The Council of International Students Australia (CISA) is holding regular online conferences targeting issues relevant to international students, including sexual health, personal branding, employability and mental health. The annual CISA Conference will also be held online between 15-17 July. Check out the CISA Facebook page for upcoming online events.