“Studying would allow me to contribute to my community. I would like to be able to help people by working with organisations such as the UN and Red Cross. If I don’t have access to education, I will remain in the same situation that I am currently in. I already feel as though the three years I have been here have been wasted.”
I was born in Iran and fled to Australia with my family for our safety when I was 21 years old. We were detained on Christmas Island for one month before being transferred to a detention centre on the mainland where we were detained for a further two months.
Upon our release into the community, my main aim was to go to University. Studying and learning are my biggest aims in life. However, my political beliefs and background meant that I was limited in what I could study in Iran. In Iran I studied at University and graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Social Relations, so my main goal upon arriving in Australia was to study a Masters in International Relations.
Unfortunately, I have been told that if I want to study in Australia, I will have to pay international student fees. This is because I do not have permanent residency as I arrived by boat. This means that university will be too expensive for me, particularly as my work opportunities and my ability to access government support are limited. In an attempt to undertake some form of education ,I began a free course offered by Melbourne University. However, I was not learning any of the skills I was looking for so I left after two months. I then attended a school where I could study year 12 and get a VCAL certificate but this felt like a step backwards because I had already studied a year 12 equivalent in Iran.
If I was given the opportunity to continue with my education, I would like to do a Masters and I would also think about doing a PhD. It would be difficult but I know I am capable. Studying would allow me to contribute to my community. I would like to be able to help people by working with organisations such as the UN and Red Cross. If I don’t have access to education, I will remain in the same situation that I am currently in. I already feel as though the three years I have been here have been wasted. I hope that I will be able to study, work and contribute to my community, otherwise I fear that I will continue to feel worse.
*Name changed to protect identity
Help Fatima and many others in her 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