Valerie Baya- CISA and Ethno-cultural conference- International Report

Hi guys,

As promised, attached are my reports of both CISA( council of international students Australia) and Ethno-cultural conferences I went to during the holidays. Hopefully they are not long.


The CISA (council of international students Australia) conference took place from the 5-8 July in Darwin. The theme of this year’s conference was “Breaking down barriers, facing the future together as one”. Over the 4 days the conference took place in different venues, with different speakers and we had different workshops at the same time. Therefore, I attended the workshops, which were more related to UniSA international students, which will be described later on in this report.

Day 1

The first speech was given by Kate Axten: Young Achiever of 2016. She talked about herself and her involvements in the school she teaches. During her talk, she mentioned about how important it is to extend the good work, which is already done. She encouraged students to get involved with the indigenous people by visiting them or even learning their culture. By doing so, it is a good start to breach the gap, which exists between locals and international students. She emphasize on the fact that it is important to listen and understand people’s needs.

The second speakers Dr Julie D Roberts and Anna Mcleod from the social innovation international services from Central Queensland University, indicated from the 2014 barometer, that 84% of the international students indicated their wish to make more friends with the Australians. The big issue was that both local and international students are scared of approaching each other, as they both think the opposite side is not interested. Some of the students under-estimate their ability to communicate with the opposition due to language differences. The solutions to this are to find out what they both like in common to engage together. Volunteering opportunities is another solution which will force both sides to communicate with each other; community projects like working with the indigenous people; creating a safe space on campus, mainly at the start of the university as students are more energetic at that time. Every state had to group them to propose one best idea, which could encourage both local and international students.

We had a roundtable to discuss about the future of CISA. Many universities raised up their issues either within their university based on the previous speakers. Few suggestions were given about how to make CISA a safer place and platform for international students. Promoting CISA during O-week and deported students (10-15%) came up, as well as no welcome international desk at the airport in South Australia. Promoting CISA among different campuses was also raised by Nina, the President of CISA.

 Day 2

Anthony McClaren, CEO (TEQSA) introduced few governmental strategies regarding international students. Some of them are to become the top destination for students to study, maintaining quality assurance and strong protection insurance for international students by 2025 and doubling the number of international students by 2020 (1.2 millions international students). He also explained the reason for which international students do not obtain a job easily. This was supported by some data as mentioned in my blog:

The second speaker who was Catherine Moore, English Language Consultant ETS and TOEFL. She mainly talked about the 2014 English language proficiency test of employment. VISA are being approved mainly for new graduates getting jobs and many industries are being approached for recruitment, as well as the state representatives.

Followed was a round table which involved more questions from the students mainly based on what the speakers shared with the audience.

Day 3

The third day consisted of different workshop at the same time. The one I attended were about student safety and crucial issues for international students in Australia. It was told how vulnerable are international students and therefore more exposed to different dangers they are unaware of. The lack of awareness among agencies and the protection rights students have are not well explained to the students before coming to Australia. For example, many agencies tell the students about all the work experience they will gain, but once in the country, it is another story. Students do not know their rights as a tenancy when looking for an accommodation. Many students are being pushed out within their contract and do not follow the right procedure of contacting the overseas ombudsman.

After the few workshops, was held the AGM to elect the new CISA committee 2016-2017. I had voting right of 3 votes and that was a good experience. I was glad that South Australia was being part of this new committee, as SA is always put aside by CISA.

Day 4

The first workshop of the day was to understand the role of ombudsman. Students should be aware to contact the student’s services if they want to change accommodation besides the expiry date. There should be more attractive advertising to inform students about plagiarism. Students should also approach the overseas ombudsman if they think their academic appeal was unfair. For example, the ombudsman can find that the university didn’t send any notice to inform the student that he will fail if he continues to skip his classes.

Seconded was a workshop on accessing student’s services in higher education. A group exercise was done when each table had to say something positive their university does for international students. Some of them are as follows:

  • An app which tells the rate of services on campus
  • International officer is of legal assist, e.g he tells students how to pay their parking fine
  • International students mentors
  • Free mental health services
  • Multi-cultural language department for both local and international students to promote events
  • Advisor pictures all over the campus which creates awareness about the advisory services

The last workshop of the day and of the conference was about sexual assault and harassment in institutional settings. Students are once again not aware of the different types of sexual harassment and the outcomes are not strict enough. They should contact the police if immediate or if they feel unsafe on campus they should contact the security. They will be a survey which will be distributed over the country to find out the percentage of sexual harassment within the students and how many of these cases are being reported. A new campaign will also come up to educate students about sexual harassment. Students should be supported by their friends to use the council services of their university if they facing any forms of sexual assault or harassment. If has been suggested that clubs should be informed about such cases to spread among their members.



The Ethno-cultural student conference was held on the 21st and 22nd of July at the University of Melbourne, in Melbourne. The conference was given by Betty who is the national Ethno-cultural officer. Among the attendees were some state officers and international student representative.

During the first day of the conference, we discusses about the lack of CALD (cultural and linguistic department) within many universities. This lack contributes to lower movement and many advocacy issues faced by students on campus. It has also been discussed about the poor universities’ policy on racism, exclusionary course content, ineffective student services and CALD student attention. Many CALD students are being disadvantage because of their culture and religious differences. There have been many cases of racism over campuses but they haven’t been taken seriously.

Based on the National Youth Advocacy Body, many Australian universities have some students of refugee background, who require certain needs, which unfortunately are not provided to them. Many of them come from different family background that has high expectations on them by telling them what do study or asking them to look for part time job and be less involved in clubs. Such pressure can play a negative role on the students.

The second day of the conference, we discussed about the different services the universities offer to students like chapels or prayer rooms. The NUS will run a survey to find out the different universities providing different prayer rooms for the students. They are also planning to run a campaign on racism and organise cultural sensitivity training for clubs. We discussed about different solutions on how to create a new Ethno-cultural group on every campus.

We had a presentation from Tony Zhang (International Student’s officer, NUS). We shared different issues which international students face on campus and some big issues within Australia. One of these issues was the cost applied for an international student to apply for a PR (permanent residency). It has been found that every international student in total spend more that $200K to be able to stay in Australia, excluding the school fees.

English being the second language of most international students, students tend to stick to their own group of friends and therefore their English language does not improve as fast as it should. They should be encouraged to do some volunteering work, which will expose them to the language. It has also been noted that lecturers are being meaner towards international students, not only in terms of grading, but also in terms of racism or bullying. As many of these students do not know their rights or are scared to fail if reported, nothing is being done. Both international and Ethno-cultural officers shared the issues being faces in their respective universities. Together, we shared ideas about what should be done to overcome these issues.



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