The coronavirus pandemic has left many international students in extremely challenging circumstances, feeling unsure of where to turn for help. While Tasmania is something of a safe haven in Australia – having had no active cases since August – fortunately, the Tasmanian Government and a number of supportive community organisations are still providing much-needed assistance to international students in need. You can find a list of the various initiatives you may be eligible for below.
If COVID-19 has severely impacted your financial situation, you may be eligible for a Pandemic Isolation Assistance Grant. These grants are available to international students in Tasmania who can demonstrate real financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. You don’t have to be in self-isolation or quarantine to be eligible. To apply for the grant, call the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.
There are also a number of Tasmanian community organisations that may be able to assist you with financial relief. The Australian Red Cross offers support to people residing in Australia without an income or savings in the form of a small one-off payment. CatholicCare Tasmania provides assistance to anyone in an emergency financial situation, regardless of background, beliefs, circumstances or residency. The organisation provides vouchers for food and everyday essentials, as well as the payment of certain bills.
There are support options available for international students who are struggling to pay their rent and accommodation costs. Anyone suffering financial hardship is eligible to apply for the Tasmanian Government’s COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund. The relief package offers support of up to $2,000, or four weeks’ rent, depending on individual circumstances. If you have already received a payment from the Rental Relief Fund, you can apply for a second rental support payment if your circumstances have not improved. The support funds have been extended until 31 January 2021.
International students may also be eligible for the International Student Support Network (ISSN) Homestay Program. The ISSN homestay program offers a heavily discounted homestay placement. These placements include a private room, meals, utilities, and support from a host family. You can contact the ISSN and apply for a placement through their website.
If you’re seeking advice or information about your legal rights in Australia, there are a number of services that can help. The Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania website contains free fact sheets, videos, self-help kits and resources to help you manage a range of legal issues. The commission also provides free walk-in legal advice at their offices in Hobart, Launceston, Burnie and Devonport.
The University of Tasmania (UTAS) runs the free and confidential Student Legal Service, which offers general advice sessions for students and community members. The program also offers a specialist migration advice service, which is available exclusively to UTAS students.
Mental health services
The challenges you face during the coronavirus pandemic may have a negative impact on your mental health. You might be worrying about loved ones back at home, experiencing feelings of loneliness, or struggling with the stress of upcoming exams. If you are dealing with any sort of mental health issue, there are many support systems that can help.
Lifeline Tasmania has a dedicated coronavirus helpline, which can be accessed by calling 1800 98 44 34. The line is open seven days a week between 8am and 8pm, and offers pandemic-related information, advice and support.
The Head to Health website contains a database of trusted Australian support services, including online and phone support, resources, programs, and treatment options.
The Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service offers information, advice and strategies to manage your mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19. If English is not your first language, the service offers free translation from the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS). You can also call the Beyond Blue coronavirus helpline on 1800 512 348 to speak with trained counsellors 24/7.
Embrace Mental Health is a multicultural mental health service with multilingual information and directories. Your education institution will also be able to assist with referrals to on-campus mental health services.
There are many forms of food relief that you can access as an international student. Migrant Resource Centre, St Vincent de Paul Society, City Mission and CatholicCare are all supportive community organisations that provide food boxes and food vouchers to students who are experiencing financial hardship.
In Hobart, Wellspring Anglican Church has a volunteer-run relief initiative called Show Hope, which provides international students facing hardship with a free curry meal and a box of food to take home. The initiative takes place every Tuesday and Thursday evening at the church, which is just a five-minute walk from the University of Tasmania campus.
For students in Launceston, Morton’s Place City Mission serves a free breakfast and lunch daily for anyone in need. Their laundry and shower facilities are also available to use between 8am and 5pm.