Assistance provided to distressed Sri Lankans in Australia

The Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Melbourne, Australia and the community in Melbourne have joined hands to support distressed Sri Lankans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Melbourne, along with the Sri Lankan community organizations and well-wishers in Melbourne, is providing necessary assistance to the Sri Lankans affected in Melbourne by the current situation. 

Home to a large number of Sri Lankans in Australia, Melbourne is one of the favorite destinations for Sri Lankans including students. There are nearly ten thousand Sri Lankan students in higher education institutes in Melbourne.

The Consulate General said it has introduced a twenty-four-hour hotline and joined hands with the Sri Lankan associations, community leaders and well-wishers to assist the students and other Sri Lankans who are faced with difficulties, in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria as well as the Australian States of South Australia and Tasmania. 

Sri Lankan students who are short of income due to the closure of workplaces are provided with essential living assistance mainly by way of dry rations and also cooked food. 

However, this assistance is unimaginable by the Consulate General alone with its limited staff, if not for the exceptional exertion of support by the community associations and the members of the community, at this hour of need.

A noteworthy instance is the close watch and assistance till recovery, by the Consulate and the community, to the Sri Lankan student in Melbourne who contracted the COVID-19 virus, it said.

The Consulate General has also taken action to provide updated information through its website and social media pages, as well as through community media stations, relating to issues that are faced by the students and Sri Lankans stranded in Australia. 

This includes the information on visa regulations, special arrangements on tenancy of accommodations as well as information on special financial assistance measures that are introduced by the Australian authorities. 

Meanwhile, the Australian government has introduced a range of new measures and regulations and implemented them through state governments, local authorities and education institutes.

The Australian Department of Home Affairs has introduced new visa regulations, including the introduction of ‘no further stay’ condition waiver that is particularly important for short term visa holders whose visas will expire shortly.

The Australian government has also announced new regulations to avoid eviction of tenants from rented accommodation for a period of six months, which help particularly students with difficulties in payment of rents. International students who are seeking advice on their rights as tenants are guided through to the relevant State / Territory authority.

There are regulations also in place increasing the number of hours that student visa holders are allowed to work up to 40 hours and allowing access to Australian superannuation, a fund similar to a pension fund, for those who have been employed in Australia longer than 12 months.  International students working in aged care and as nurses as well as in the major supermarkets have had the working hours extended.

The Sri Lanka Consulate General said the Australian Federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment has reassured on the assistance provided to international students directly and indirectly by the Federal Government and Australian Education Providers, by way of a letter addressed to the Acting High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in Canberra, this week. 

Some Australian universities have already introduced special funds to assist international students who are facing financial difficulties, with fee assistance, other grants or changes to tuition requirements and critical dates. 

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has recommended international students to contact their education provider for assistance and information regarding their studies.

The Sri Lanka Consulate General in Melbourne said it coordinates its assistance to the distressed Sri Lankan students and short term visa holders in consultation with the High Commission of Sri Lanka in Canberra. (Colombo Gazette)