“It would change my life if I were able to attend university. It would allow me to gain knowledge and also to integrate into Australian society. I hope that in the future I will have access to affordable education.”
I was born in Afghanistan. When I was two years old, my family and I fled to Pakistan. I spent 13 years in Pakistan, but because I didn’t have any legal documents I wasn’t able to attend government schools. Instead, I studied at English language centres and computer centres where I wasn’t taught how to read and write. When I was 15, I travelled to Indonesia. During the one and a half months I was there, I met a man who was in contact with a smuggler. He helped me get to Australia by boat. The boat trip took 50 hours; it was a horrible experience. After the boat trip, I was detained on Christmas Island for one month. There were limited education opportunities available to me on Christmas Island. I was then transferred to a detention centre on the mainland. During the 3 months I was there, I was taken out of the centre during the day to attend a local school. I studied at a year 10 level in classes with other refugees, separate from the local students.
Once I turned 16, I moved to a different school where I started year 11, studying subjects such as maths, legal studies, business studies, physics and ESL (English as a second language). My favourite subject was legal studies and it sparked my interest in the law. The study was good but hard; I was struggling with my English. After one term there, I put in a request to move to a different city where I had family and friends. My request was approved and I moved to an outer suburb where I enrolled in the local high school. I was happy to be at my new school. Many of the other boys were Hazara people from my country. I continued to study legal studies and decided that one day I would like to be a lawyer.
In 2015, I began year 12. My friends and I worked very hard and did very well. After school, we would go to the library and study until 8pm. Unfortunately however, my ATAR score was lower than I had hoped which was disappointing for me. Despite this, I was proud of myself for completing year 12.
I would like to go to University. Victoria University has offered me a place in one of their courses, however, because I am not a permanent resident (as I arrived by boat), I have to pay international student fees. I spoke to some universities who offered me a scholarship for $1,000 per semester but for students paying international fees, each semester costs $12,000. As I am over 18 and not a permanent resident, I am also not allowed to work which means paying this sum is virtually impossible. Some of my friends and I were able to meet with a Member of Parliament to discuss this issue. We asked that Government support should be extended to refugees and asylum seekers to enable them to access higher education at an affordable price.
It would change my life if I were able to attend university. It would allow me to gain knowledge and also to integrate into Australian society. I hope that in the future I will have access to affordable education.
*Name and image changed to protect identity
Help Abul and many others in his position- Sign our Petition to Education Ministers
Last year, the Refugee Council of Australia released a report detailing the significant financial barriers that people seeking asylum and refugees face in accessing further education. We are writing to urge the Federal, State and Territory Governments to remove these barriers and allow these people to access the same supports as other Australians.
Unlike holders of permanent humanitarian visas, people seeking asylum and refugees on temporary visas are not eligible for programs and concessions designed to assist students with financing tertiary study. Without state, territory or federal support, these people are forced to pay very expensive international student fees to attend TAFE, Universities and other institutions. For people who have spent years without the right to work, receiving only $460 a fortnight, this is not a viable option.
Providing further education can have a profound impact on the lives of individuals and also create further benefits for the wider community, both socially and economically. Denying people the opportunity to gain further education impacts their ability to gain employment and positively contribute to Australia.
We believe that the small upfront costs of providing access to this group of people will be greatly outweighed by the benefits. As such, we ask that the Federal, State and Territory Governments allow all people seeking asylum and refugees on temporary visas equal access to education support.
Refugee Council of Australia