International students are struggling to keep abreast of a series of sudden changes to Western Australia’s border restrictions. Within a period of two weeks, the regulations changed three times, leaving students stranded and uncertain about when they’ll be able to make it back to campus. Most recently, the WA government announced that students had five days to enter the state before they would again be locked out at midnight on 5 February.
The border u-turns are being discussed widely by international students who are increasingly distrustful of Australian government regulations and policy announcements.
Oscar Ong, National President of the Council of International Students Australia told TLG:
“International students have been plagued with uncertainties and confusion for more than two years now, but recently we have seen more positive news around the international student space which has reignite our hope that international students are not left behind during the pandemic.
“However, we are devastated to see the recent continuing changes of border and quarantine policies for international students of the WA government with numerous backflips. International students were given hope to enter WA from their countries but has now changed again and been given a deadline (this Friday midnight) to enter Australia to be able to enter WA.”
Throughout the pandemic, we have been conducting research, tracking international student sentiment towards Western Australia’s border changes. We are seeing growing confusion and frustration as students desperately try to understand what’s happening.
Students who, just a week ago, were grappling with processes to return and have made plans, are now quickly realising that they may no longer be able to do so.
Oscar echoes similar thoughts on the impacts of the new changes to the lives of students:
“International students trusted Mark McGowan when he announced the state borders will be opened on February 5th, some have quit their jobs, made significant life changes, and made the decision to study based on that very promise.
“We are deeply concerned as this effectively means WA international students that won’t be able to enter Australia by this Friday (which is unlikely given the limited flights availability and short notice, considering a lot are celebrating Chinese New Year) will be looking at the prospect of delaying their studies for the third year or to continue their constantly disrupted studies”.
Western Australia’s institutions are frustrated with the policy backflips creating logistical and communications challenges. Tara Colyer-Long, the Interim Chief Executive Officer of Study Perth told us:
“International students are vitally important to WA and their absence has been felt during these challenging times. We’ve been disappointed and frustrated with the various changes being made to directions, which has created quite a communications challenge, however we remain committed to working with Government to get international students back to Western Australia safely.
“We will continue to advocate for our international student community, to ensure students are provided with all available information and support given the changed circumstances.
“Western Australia remains a great place to live, study and work, and there are many employment, social and cultural opportunities for international students across WA.”
StudyPerth understands further decisions on border controls will be reviewed over the course of the next month.
In the meantime, Western Australia’s international students are desperately seeking stability and clarity. Without this, we risk losing the trust of students who are invested in spending time living and studying in Western Australia.
Varsha Devi Balakrishnan
The Lygon Group