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Media Release: Leadership on international student welfare begins with human rights

Posted 25 January 2011 by Jen T. Kwok (NTEU National Office)

NTEU President Jeannie Rea today called for the Australian Government to sign the Migrant Workers Convention as a catalyst to transforming the public debate on international student rights and welfare.

“The best way to combat the decline in international student enrolments is to ensure that quality of education and student welfare issues is at the forefront of the reform process. We believe the Australian government would be delivering an important message if it was the first western nation to sign the Migrant Workers Convention,” Jeannie Rea stated.

“The Convention protects the rights of people at the margins of our society, in particular the labour rights of non-citizens exploited while they reside here. Signing the Convention is a statement about our values. It also tells our friends in the region that we are a nation which does not allow people to slip through the cracks. Basic welfare and human rights are Australian values regardless of whether those we are concerned for are (or are not) Australians.”

Ms Rea expressed disappointment that the tone of the debate had not placed greater attention upon the significance of the government’s reform agenda, and the social and cultural values that sit at the heart of Australian tertiary education.

“Through the Baird Review, the Australian government began a process to reform international education in this country. The regulatory framework they inherited had pushed the sector to a precipice. Attacks against international students and the collapse of private providers can be understood as symptoms of this malaise.”

Jeannie Rea concluded, “In recognising these problems, however, it is important to understand that this debacle is not a reflection of what Australians think about tertiary education. We, like others in the sector, believe that the tertiary education experience will transform the lives of those who study at Australian institutions.”

Media Contacts:

NTEU National President Jeannie Rea 0434 609 531

NTEU Policy and Research Unit Director Paul Kniest 0418 170 622

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