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Australia Cracks Down on Exploitation of Migration System: What You Need to Know as an International Student

Australia’s international education and visa sectors are currently undergoing significant changes in response to the Nixon Review, an investigation into the exploitation of the country’s migration system. Consequently, the government is taking immediate action to address issues in the international education sector and improve the overall experience of international students in Australia.

As an international student, here’s what you should be aware of.

What is the Nixon Review?

The Nixon Review is a government-commissioned investigation led by former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Christine Nixon. Its purpose was to address widespread abuses in the Australian visa system, including cases of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. The review revealed significant deficiencies in immigration compliance and recommended measures to protect temporary migrants. Yesterday, 4 October 2023, the government responded to these recommendations and announced a series of changes to improve the integrity of Australia’s migration system. Here are some of the key changes that relate to you as an international student.

What will change?

Cracking down on education and migration agents

Recognising that three-quarters of international students rely on education agents, the Australian Government is strengthening oversight in response to findings from the Nixon Review. Stricter background checks and higher penalties for migration agents will be introduced to combat serious issues, including funnelling students into sexual exploitation and organised crime groups.

Education agents will also no longer earn commissions for student transfers between educational institutions to ensure that transfers are based on the best interests of students rather than financial motivations.

Additionally, there will be a permanent Australia Border Force probe into migrant exploitation and new roles dedicated to immigration compliance and visa protection. These measures are part of a comprehensive government response to protect the rights and security of international students and migrants while addressing systemic issues.

Improving education for international students

The Australian Government is concerned the quality of education for international students is lagging partly due to these dishonest education agents. To enhance their experience and safety, the government is providing educational institutions with essential data on education agents, allowing them to choose reliable partners.

Attendance regulations will also be strictly enforced to ensure a better learning environment.

Addressing worker exploitation

In 2020, three in four international students earned less than the minimum wage, and although there have since been reforms to address this, the Nixon report suggests exploitation is still normalised in many sections of the labour market. In response, the government is prioritising employment rights and fair working conditions for workers on temporary visas.

The government is set to introduce a public stand-down list, targeting employers who breach migration laws. These employers will face penalties and will be prohibited from hiring more temporary migrant workers. This development follows the government’s recent announcement of harsher penalties, including the potential for up to two years of imprisonment, for employers found guilty of exploiting migrant workers.

Where can I get support as an international student?

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel exploited or mistreated, it’s essential to know where to turn for help. As an international student, you have access to several resources to protect your rights and well-being:

  • Fair Work Ombudsman: If you believe you’re facing unfair treatment or exploitation in your workplace, the Fair Work Ombudsman is your ally. They specialise in addressing employment-related disputes and ensuring you receive proper wages and working conditions.
  • Your educational institution: Your educational institution is more than just a place of learning; it’s also a source of support. Most institutions have dedicated international student support services that can assist you with personal and practical matters. Some institutions even provide their own legal support services for students, or they can connect you with trusted legal assistance.