Support Services for Students
There are many consumer protection and support services available for international students. This includes services provided directly by institutions as well as those provided by a range of state, territory and federal government departments.
Australian has a strong consumer protection framework to protect the rights of Australian consumers, including international students in Australia. The Australian Consumer Law includes a national law guaranteeing consumer rights when buying goods and services. You should contact the relevant government trade and consumer agency in your state or territory, if you:
- Would like information about your consumer rights.
- Have a problem with a consumer good or service that you have bought or are considering buying.
- Would like to know how a business should behave under the law.
- Would like to make a complaint about a business.
Overseas Students Ombudsman
The Overseas Students Ombudsman (OSO) investigates complaints about problems that overseas students have with private education and training institutions in Australia. The Ombudsman’s services are free, independent and impartial. You can find out more about this service on their website: www.ombudsman.gov.au. A number of OSO publications, including newsletters, can be found on the OSO website.
If you are studying at a public institution, such as TAFE colleges and many universities and schools, you should contact the Ombudsman in the state or territory in which you are studying to lodge a complaint. You can find details of what the Ombudsman can investigate on their website. Below is a list of the Ombudsman websites for all states and territories in Australia:
- Australian Capital Territory Ombudsman– ombudsman.act.gov.au
- New South Wales Ombudsman– ombo.nsw.gov.au
- Northern Territory Ombudsman– omb-hcscc.nt.gov.au
- Queensland Ombudsman– ombudsman.qld.gov.au
- South Australian Ombudsman– ombudsman.sa.gov.au
- Tasmanian Ombudsman– ombudsman.tas.gov.au
- Victorian Ombudsman– ombudsman.vic.gov.au
- Western Australian Ombudsman– ombudsman.wa.gov.au
Tuition Protection Service
The Tuition Protection Service (TPS) is an initiative of the Australian Government to assist you if your institution (referred to as ‘Education Provider’ under the TPS) is unable to fully deliver your course of study. The TPS may also assist you if you have withdrawn from, or not started, your course and are eligible for a refund of tuition fees and the institution has not paid them.
The TPS will ensure that you are able to either:
- Complete your studies in another course or with another institution, or
- Receive a refund of your unspent tuition fees.
Under the Tuition Protection Service international students have a number of rights and obligations. For more information visit the Tuition Protection Service website.
Institution support services
Student support forms a large part of Australia’s education system. Institutions provide specialist services to help international students adjust to life and study in Australia, and to achieve their goals. This includes student services such as:
- Language and academic support.
- Designated international student advisers.
- On-arrival reception and orientation programs.
- Childcare, health and counseling.
- Student accommodation.
- Employment services.
- Prayer and worships rooms.
- Banking, shopping and food outlets.
- Clubs, societies, sport and fitness facilities.
Many Australian education institutions are like mini communities, so not only will you be able to undertake your studies amid world-class learning facilities, you will also be able to enjoy the social side of studying as well. You can join a club or society, improve your health and fitness in the gym, join a sports team, attend a social event, or volunteer for community service. To find out full details of what your institution provides please check their website directly.
Australia has a number of student associations representing and assisting students from Australian institutions. National associations include:
- Council of International Students Australia (CISA) – National peak student representative body for international students studying at the postgraduate, undergraduate, private college, TAFE, ELICOS and foundation level.
- Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS) – Assisting international students in maximizing the scope and potential of their experience living and studying in Australia.
Most institutions in Australia also have their own student associations – you can visit your institution’s website for more information.
Australia has laws that protect individuals from discrimination in many areas of public life, including education. A person with a disability has just as much right to study as any other student. This means that institutions cannot:
- Refuse admission on the basis of disability.
- Accept a student with a disability on less favourable terms than other students (for example, asking for higher fees).
- Deny or limit access to a student with a disability (for example, not allowing access to excursions, or having inaccessible student common rooms or lecture facilities).
Many institutions offer services for students who require assistance with their studies because of a disability or chronic medical condition. These may include voice-recognition software, hearing aids or note-taking services. You should contact your institution several weeks before you arrive to make the appropriate arrangements for your specific needs.
Institutions must make every effort to accommodate a student with a disability. However, the institution is not legally required to make modifications if the changes involve major difficulties or unreasonable cost. The institution has to prove the changes are unjustified and, before making such a claim, must have direct discussions with the student and seek expert advice.
If you are experiencing a problem with your institution, you should first talk to staff at your institution. If informal discussions do not resolve the problem, you have the option of lodging a formal complaint. Institutions are required to have a process for students to register complaints. If you feel you have a legitimate complaint that is not being recognised by your institution, you should approach the Australian Human Rights Commission. Confidential enquiries can be made by telephone but a formal complaint must be lodged in writing before the commission can take action. Find out more about disability rights in Australia at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission.
While many larger institutions have childcare facilities with trained staff, there are also a wide variety of private and not-for-profit childcare centres available around Australia. The Australian government provides financial assistance to help parents with childcare costs. International students who receive direct financial assistance from the government, through a government scholarship, may be eligible to receive the child care benefit. To find out if you are eligible for child care financial assistance, read more at the Australia.gov.au website.
Other support services
Some other support services that may be useful to know while you are studying in Australia are:
- Contact details– 000
- Service details– Life threatening situations, such as a car crash or a fire.
Local police – non-urgent matters
- Contact details– Call 131 444 (everywhere except Victoria). In Victoria you need to call your local police station (consult your local Telephone Directory)
- Service details– Police attendance for non-urgent matters.
- Contact details– 13 11 14
- Service details– Lifeline provides crisis support, suicide prevention and mental health support services across Australia. These can include stresses from work, family or society and physical and mental wellbeing. Lifeline offers support services by phone or through their online chat available on their website.
- Contact details– 1800 551 800
- Service details– If you’re between 5 and 25 and you’re feeling depressed, worried, sad, angry or confused about things like your studies personal relationships, Kids Helpline offers free 24-hour, 7-day telephone counseling support (anonymous if you prefer).
Poison Information Centre
- Contact details– 131 126
- Service details– Provides advice on the management, assessment and treatment of poisonous products including non-prescription pharmaceuticals, household and industrial chemicals, and plant and animal venom.
Sexual Assault counseling service
- Contact details– Search online for ‘rape crisis centre’ in your home state
- Service details– If you, or anyone you know, has experienced or is at risk of sexual assault, call one of the state-based sexual assault counseling services. These provide a free 24-hour, 7-day a week telephone counseling service (anonymous if you prefer). Many are connected to hospitals or government health departments to help you if the assault has left you with injuries.