Australia: Why a cultural diversity target for public sector leadership is overdue

Surprising that Australia doesn’t have comparable reports to Canada’s employment equity reports. Their report is high level and has limited data tables, with visible minority data largely limited to immigrants. The Canadian approach of consistent detailed reporting, enhanced for the last five years with disaggregated data, has generated steady increases in representation:

The latest Census data shows that Australia is more multicultural than ever before, however senior leadership in the Australian Public Service (APS) does not reflect Australia’s diversity. A target should be implemented to elevate a greater percentage of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians into senior APS roles.

Introducing diversity targets in the APS is not a new concept. Targets are a tried and tested method of achieving systemic change and overcoming institutionalised biases in government hiring practices. For example, through a whole-of-government target, 50-50 gender parity has been achieved in all APS levels of leadership.

The latest Census data is concrete evidence of the increasingly multicultural identity of Australia, where half of Australians were born overseas or have a parent born overseas.

But rather than perceiving this as a “nice-to-have”, the business case for increased CALD leadership in the APS is clear.

The intercultural and linguistic skills of CALD Australians are invaluable in filling the capability gaps in the public sector. For example, leveraging the skills of the Chinese-Australian community will create a more China-literate APS, especially in roles relating to trade, foreign policy, national security, and cyber.

Cultural and linguistic competency is also relevant to domestic policymaking. During the height of COVID-19, Google Translate was used by the Department of Home Affairs to communicate public health messaging to CALD communities. If a senior public servant with multilingual skills and lived experience of engaging with CALD communities was present in the room at the time, they could have easily advised against the inadequacies of automated translation.

Enhanced CALD leadership can also increase staff retention in the APS. For CALD Australians who wish to ascend the career ladder but see a lack of diverse leadership above them, the problem of “you can’t be what you can’t see” serves as a barrier. One consequence of underrepresentation in leadership is increased turnover of staff from that underrepresented background.

For example, research from the UK government found that more than half of surveyed black, Asian, and minority ethnic employees perceived that they would have to leave their current workplaces for promotion opportunities.

While increased CALD leadership in the APS is a clear value-add, the road to reform will not be easy.

Existing CALD-related data in the APS is patchy since the provision of diversity data to the APS except for gender by employees is voluntary. Without comprehensive data, understanding the extent of CALD underrepresentation in leadership as a first step will be difficult to determine.

The finite pool of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) resources in the APS is another roadblock. Addressing the systematic biases that plague other diverse groups such women, First Nations Australians, and people with disability is equally as important in achieving equity for all in the public sector. Implementing a CALD leadership target may detract time and effort from D&I initiatives aimed at these other underrepresented groups.

At the same time, public discourse has become more vocal in recent years regarding the importance of increased CALD representation in positions of power. The diversity gains in politics have been much applauded and are case studies for what public sector leadership could look like.

In 2013, now-deputy leader of the Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi was the first Muslim woman to enter any Australian parliament. Another win for diversity can be seen with Malaysian-born senator Penny Wong, who last year became Australia’s first foreign-born foreign minister.

Although the road to public sector reform is difficult, the creation of a CALD target in the APS is not impossible. The business case is there, and the public appetite for change exists.

All that’s left now is to convince government that now is the time to act.

Source: Why a cultural diversity target for public sector leadership is overdue

Australia: Why international graduates find it hard to stay and work

Of note. Some parallels with Canada:

International students are flooding back to Australian universities. Some predictions say 2023 could even see record numbers of overseas students in the country.

This is not only good news for universities, but potentially good news for Australian employers. Part of the Albanese government’s plan to boost skills in Australia is to try to ensure more students stay longer after they graduate and join the workforce. 

Education Minister Jason Clare recently announced that those with a bachelor degree could stay for four years, up from two, to “strengthen the pipeline of skilled labour”, particularly likely to include graduates in healthcare, teaching, hospitality and accounting. 

But the government’s simple policy change is not enough. It assumes graduates will be able to get jobs in the areas they studied. There are four key reasons why getting more skilled international graduates into jobs needs more than just a visa extension. 

Not all graduates secure a job

Up to one-third of international graduates who stay in Australia post-study are still unemployed six months after graduating. This is the case even with historically low unemployment rates.

Full-time employment rates for international graduates are also consistently lower than for domestic graduates. For example, in 2021, the full-time employment rate for international graduates with an undergraduate degree was 43.0% compared with 68.9% for domestic graduates. 

Many international students are self-funded and report feeling stressed and under pressure to financially support themselves and their families due to the increased cost of living. 

If they do find a job, it pays less

Finding well-paying employment in occupations related to a student’s field of study also takes time. 

Many students and graduates report they are taking jobs that are not related to what they have studied, often for low wages. 

Studies also show that even if international students with an undergraduate degree find full-time employment, they earn 20% less than domestic graduates.

Too few work experience opportunities

Another reason it is difficult for international students to get a job after graduating is the limited opportunity to work while they study. 

Due to COVID and the push towards more online learning, work placements or internships have become scarce. In 2022, many universities have begun to offer internships again, but some students completed their studies without practical workplace experience.

Very few international students have local networks to draw on for job opportunities. They also tend to be less familiar with Australian workplace contexts and cultures and rely on internships to get the experience they need to secure an ongoing job.

Employers are hesitant

A 2020 Deakin University report found employers were hesitant to hire international graduates on temporary visas. Other research also shows employers favour those with permanent residency because they see them as more likely to stay in Australia, and worth the investment in recruiting and training. 

Research has also found employers think international graduates will be more expensive to hire, and they would require more on-the-job training to be able to understand the Australian workplace. 

Some mistakenly think language will be an issue, not realising that all university graduates need to meet the minimum English language proficiency to gain entry into any university programme.

Sometimes employers think international graduates are not considered to be a good “cultural fit”. While cultural fit is a consideration when hiring, there is a real danger some employers are using this reason to discriminate against international graduates for no reason other than their ethnic background. 

International students are a trustworthy and valuable source of productivity and workplace diversity – both of which are necessary to compete in a global economy. They have different skill sets, ideas, attitudes and cultural understandings that can expand how a business operates in a culturally diverse country. 

What is the way forward?

So, giving international students more time in Australia is not the whole answer. They need better career support before and after graduation.

This includes work placements but also help preparing for job applications and interviews.

Employers also need to be better informed about graduates’ capabilities and the benefits of hiring international graduates.

Danielle H Heinrichs is a researcher at the Griffith Institute of Educational Research, Griffith University, and Sarojni Choy is a professor of professional vocational and continuing education at Griffith University, Australia.

Source: Why international graduates find it hard to stay and work

IYMI: Chinese residing in Australia reveal why they are giving up citizenship of their homeland — or why they don’t want to

Some signs of similar views among Chinese Canadians:

Xi Jinping securing his third term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party was the last straw for Victor Zeng.

Mr Zeng, 26, who grew up in a remote town in Xinjiang province before moving to Melbourne to marry his husband, became an Australian permanent resident about 18 months ago.

With Mr Xi cementing his position as China’s unchallenged leader at the CCP’s National Party Congress in October, he now feels war with Taiwan and a return to a state-run collective economy is imminent.

And he worries that if he goes back to China as a Chinese citizen he may be trapped there, or one day his Australian permanent residency may be unexpectedly revoked.

“I don’t know if this is my paranoia, but I feel uncertain,” he told the ABC.

“So I’m going to discuss it with my family as soon as possible and enter the process of joining Australian citizenship.”

China’s increasing authoritarianism under Mr Xi — typified by the strict COVID-zero policy — is prompting some Chinese residents in Australia to consider taking the next step to officially become Australians.

However, China does not allow dual nationality, so it means forfeiting their Chinese citizenship.

It’s a difficult decision, with practical and emotional considerations.

‘I felt that there is another way of life’

Mr Zeng said he started feeling “conditions were deteriorating” in China from around 2016, as Beijing intensified its crackdown on the Muslim Uyghur community.

In Xinjiang, where Uyghurs are about half the population, many areas were cut off from the surrounding streets by iron gates, and authorities were checking identity cards everywhere.

“After arriving in Australia, I felt that there is another way of life that is not coerced into the grand narratives, that I can say no to the propaganda and political missions,” he said.

Mr Zeng said his biggest concern was for his family members who were still living in Xinjiang.

“If I become an Australian citizen, I don’t know if there will be more restrictions on my [visitor] visa [to China] as Xinjiang is a sensitive region,” he said.

‘We have a stronger sense of urgency than before’

In the 2021-22 financial year, 5,392 people born in China became Australian citizens, according to figures from the Department of Home Affairs.

Fan Yang, a researcher at Deakin University’s Alfred Institute, said individual choices were often connected to structural change at the societal, cultural, political, national, and even international levels.

“Xi’s third term would give people the impression that China is less likely to change,” she said.

“For those who gained significant benefit from their social status in China, it is less likely that they would give up on their Chinese citizenship.

“However, for those who tend to be more politically active, they are more likely to acquire Australian citizenship for the rights of political participation.”

While some Chinese residents in Australia share Mr Zeng’s concerns, those worries may not be enough to push them to give up their Chinese citizenship.

Aaron, who asked not to use his real name, migrated to Australia with his family in 2011.

Mr Xi’s third term and the continuation of the national COVID-zero policy were two “realistic factors” that led him to “seriously consider the choice of citizenship”.

“We have a stronger sense of urgency than before,” he said.

“China’s political and democratic environments have changed dramatically. There is the possibility of going backwards … we have put our citizenship choices as a priority now.

“When the politics is stable and the economic reforms are more stable and China connects with the rest of the world well, we think our citizenship choices don’t matter that much.”

However, because he still operates businesses and has property in China, he is reluctant to follow Mr Zeng’s lead and give up his Chinese citizenship.

He said he was also worried he would lose access to a social security fund he had been putting money into for many years.

“If we join Australian citizenship, we worry that they won’t allow us to draw money from it,” he said.

‘Identity and a choice of loyalty’

Yu Tao, senior lecturer and coordinator of Chinese studies at the University of Western Australia, said for many Chinese migrants, the decision to take Australian citizenship was tied to their “identity and a choice of loyalty”.

Becoming an Australian citizen meant “cutting ties with China” symbolically, he said.

“If China continues to close its door or gets very isolated from the rest of the world [under the COVID-zero policy], then inevitably, lots of people will have to make a choice,” he said.

“If the bilateral relationship is better, some people [will] probably feel they don’t have to make a choice.”

He said in isolation Mr Xi’s third term was unlikely to be the “single and biggest reason” for their citizenship choices.

“Xi’s third term was in a way well expected [from] when he removed the term limits of the president of PRC,” he said.

Dr Tao said the long-term sociopolitical conditions under Mr Xi’s rule, such as the COVID-zero policy and Sino-Australian relations, were likely having a more profound impact.

He said practical, economic issues were also important factors.

“I suppose if, in the long run, COVID is going to touch upon some of these practical material parts of the consideration, that will also have a profound impact on how people negotiate their citizenship,” he said.

Family ties still bind for some

Riki Lee, who came to Australia as an international student and has had permanent residency status since 2014, said taking Australian citizenship was not even a consideration for him.

He said Chinese people, influenced by the Confucian culture, were deeply affected by thoughts of homesickness and nostalgia for loved ones.

“I am an only child and my parents and family are in China,” Mr Lee said.

“If unexpected things happen, such as a war or if the bilateral relationship gets worse, a Chinese passport and a PR (an Australian permanent residency) are the most convenient way to return to China.”

‘I feel like anything could happen if I’m in China’

Dr Yang said Beijing offered incentives for young people — particularly academics — to return to China and contribute to the country, such as research allowances and discounted accommodation.

However, she said she did not believe these sweeteners played into many people’s thinking.

“Those policies are like scratching an itch outside one’s boots due to the harsh academic environment and the lack of academic funding in China,” she said.

“Academics are not well paid in China and there are unwritten rules that disadvantage female academics or LGBTQIA+ academics.”

Jessica Ching, an educational psychology graduate and holder of a Hong Kong passport, grew up in mainland China.

Before the pandemic, Ms Ching spent time in China doing psychology workshops with parents and schools and had intended to live and work in China.

She is now hesitant to continue her plan.

“I think especially in the next three to five years, I don’t see myself going back to China to start a clinic or actually going into schools to speak because there’s an imminent threat that I can’t return back to Australia,” she said.

“I feel like anything could happen if I’m in China.”

Ms Ching has a utilitarian approach to her citizenship.

She said she was holding on to her Hong Kong passport, which enables visa-free travel to many more countries than a Chinese passport, for now but she was worried that in a couple of years’ time it might lose its benefits.

“I will try to keep my Hong Kong passport as long as I can, but if it gets to a point where we have to choose, I think I will choose to be an Australian citizen,” she said.

Source: Chinese residing in Australia reveal why they are giving up citizenship of their homeland — or why they don’t want to

How Canada can fix its ‘predatory’ relationship with international students

Good long read on the university and college cash cow and a program that has increasingly deviated from an education to a labour program, with some interesting insights from Australia.

While bit over the top, this money quote has an inconvenient truth:

“The whole objective of international education is just to make money and to grow the economy. It has really little to do with education,” says Kahlon. “If we’re honest about what the international education strategy is, it is just to raise Canada’s GDP.”

Canada’s international education strategy has been an undisputable success — the envy of other nations — attracting foreign students to come and study with the promise of work opportunities and the prospect of permanent residency and citizenship.

Over the years, the campaign has injected billions into the economy, created a pipeline of immigrants and fuelled a post-secondary education sector that struggled with declining public funding and falling domestic enrolment.

But that successful formula and unfettered growth seems to have reached a tipping point.

Students who are falling through the cracks are starting to question whether their investment of time and money, by way of hefty tuition fees, is paying off.

And Canada doesn’t need a crystal ball to see what lies ahead.

“A CASH cow is all very well, and a fine thing when it is happily chomping in the field. But what happens when it grows horns, turns nasty and demands that you feed it more and look after it better?”

That was a question raised in an article published in The Age, one of Australia’s oldest and most reputable newspapers, back in 2008. At the time, Australia was seeing an exponential growth in international enrolment that made the then-$12.5 billion international education sector its third-largest export after coal and iron.

“There is pressure on the industry from without and within. Increasing competition from foreign universities in the global race for market share, Australian universities at capacity, and a growing perception that Australia’s international students have been exploited on one hand, and neglected on the other, are biting hard,” the story continued.

There were other reports about international students in Australia being “underpaid and exploited” as a labour underclass, of students struggling with social isolation, feeling unhappy with the immigration prospects and facing “severe overcrowding” in rooming houses, including one extreme case where 48 students were living in a six-bedroom property.

Canada has been following a similar trajectory, some say.

The pandemic has further exposed international students’ precariousness and our country’s disjointed education and immigration systems, which leave students disillusioned amid a patchwork of support that relies on the goodwill of the schools, employers and local communities.

More and more international students in Canada are publicly complaining about exploitation and wage thefts by bad employers and landlords, the financial and emotional hardship of the journey, and the unfulfilled immigration dream sold to them by unscrupulous education recruiters.

Increasingly, there’s a recognition that what they have been promised is not exactly what they’re getting. while studying in Canada is not a guaranteed pathway for permanent residence that many expect.

It’s led to a growing chorus of voices calling on the Canadian government to refresh its strategy to ensure its international enrolment growth is sustainable and its appeal as a destination of choice will last.

But what would a reset, recalibrated international student program look like in Canada?

There is some no shortage of possibilities.

Resetting Canada’s international education strategy

The Canadian government launched an aggressive campaign in 2014 to boost its annual number of international students to more than 450,000 by 2022.

The country has long surpassed that goal.

Last year, there were 845,930 valid study permit holders in Canada, which rose to 917,445 as of Sept. 30 of this year.

International students, through their spending and tuition, contribute $22 billion to the Canadian economy and support 170,000 jobs in the country.

Those international students, who typically pay up to four times more in tuition than their domestic counterparts, are a godsend to many Canadian colleges and universities to help fill classroom seats and keep courses open for domestic students who otherwise would’ve had fewer options from which to choose. They are also embraced by employers desperate for temporary help at gas stations, restaurants and factories to keep businesses running.

Yet there have been increasing public calls for the federal government to better align academic goals, Canada’s economic needs and the interests of students.

The RBC has recently recommended Ottawa to be more strategic in leveraging and expanding its international student pool in the global race for skilled workers post-pandemic; the Conference Board of Canada in a separate report urged better co-ordination to ensure the number of international students admitted are in line with thelevel of permanent residents admitted each year to avoid further “friction.”

Australia moved to reset its own system.

International enrolment there had blossomed from 256,553 in 2002 to 583,483 in 2009 as migrants were drawn by the opportunities to work and stay in the country permanently before Canberra decided to rein in an unruly sector by “desegregating education and immigration.”

Australian officials began asking education institutions to register international education agents who worked for them and to review their performances based on student enrolment outcomes.

The bar for permanent residence was raised and limited to those who completed degree-level programs, postgraduate programs and regulated professions such as nursing, engineering and social work.

All applicants must submit a statement detailing their personal circumstances and why they pursue a particular program in Australia. Each is assessed based on the study plan, as well as factors such as the economic situation, military service commitments and even political and civil unrest in the person’s home country to make sure they are “genuine temporary entrants.”

Today, international education is still worth about $34 billion (Canadian) to Australia’s economy, with 418,168 in higher education out of 882,482 students in international enrolment in 2020. The rest were mainly in language training and vocational schools.

International students, meanwhile, go where the opportunities are. Experts say students traditionally turn to other jurisdictions with fewer perceived barriers when countries such as Australia restrict the pipeline.

Students “are using commercial agents to find the cheapest, most affordable routes there are,” says Chris Ziguras, a professor at RMIT University in Melbourne, who studies the globalization of education.

“At the moment, I think there’s a lot of students clearly voting with their feet and choosing that pathway into Canada over other pathways which are more expensive, more difficult and more restrictive. And that’s why we’re seeing the bulge there.”

A patchwork of settlement supports for foreign students

Noor Azrieh didn’t know anyone in Canada when she came to Carleton University in 2018 for a four-year journalism and human rights program. The 22-year-old Lebanese says she has had issues finding housing and skilled jobs because of her temporary status.

Landlords would often ask for six-to-eight-month rent deposits and demand a Canadian guarantor, while employers lost interest in hiring her once they found out she was here on a time-limited post-graduate work permit.

“It feels like you are doing this entirely alone. And maybe that’s just how it is,” says Azrieh, who works full time as an associate producer at CANADALAND. “Maybe I wasn’t ready to move across the country, across the globe, to a country that I didn’t know. But it felt like I was doing everything alone.”

.Colleges and universities are educational institutions, and some don’t have the capacity to properly support international students, who lack access to the kind of settlement services designed exclusively for permanent residents.

In light of the service gaps, immigrant agencies in B.C. now provide support for international students and temporary foreign workers through one-on-one information and referral, workshops and support groups.

Nova Scotia also launched a pilot program recently that offers international students in their final year help with career development opportunities and community connections to successfully transition to permanent residence.

However, these supports are piecemeal and it’s unclear who is responsible for the costs and the students’ well-being, says Lisa Brunner, a University of British Columbia doctoral student, whose research focuses on immigration, higher education and internationalization.

“If you’re coming from an institution’s perspective, my goal is to support students in their education and their experience in Canada, versus the government saying, ‘OK, we want to support this person because they’re a future immigrant and we want to retain them,’ ” she says.

“Those are two different types of services.

“The way it’s structured now works well for the government, because essentially the students themselves are responsible for the settlement process. Either they acquire the capital that’s necessary to succeed in the labour market to qualify for permanent residence or they don’t. In this way, the government doesn’t have to fund the services.”

“We all acknowledge giving access to students to those (settlement and support) services from the beginning of their journeys would be a tremendous return on investment for Canada,” says Larissa Bezo, president and CEO of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, a not-for-profit organization that aims to promote and advance Canadian international education.

“There’s a shared responsibility that we have … And in a federation like ours, that’s complex. I’m under no illusion. But we need to do a better job of connecting these dots.”

Coming out of the pandemic, Bezo says, Canada’s global brand has remained strong as Canadian governments and the sector pivoted in supporting international students through the crisis as other countries such as Australia asked their students to go home.

Clear messaging to international students

Balraj Kahlon, who co-founded One Voice Canada in British Columbia in 2019 to support and advocate for international students, says Canada’s international education strategy has been “ruthlessly” successful.

“The whole objective of international education is just to make money and to grow the economy. It has really little to do with education,” says Kahlon. “If we’re honest about what the international education strategy is, it is just to raise Canada’s GDP.”

He says the country’s international enrolment has increasingly been coming from the working poor in developing countries, lured by Canada’s relatively low tuition fees, the chance to work and make money to pay off family loans for the studies, and sometimes misinformation by unscrupulous education agents about the direct pathway for permanent residence.

He says many international students these days are pursuing the cheaper and shorter programs at colleges with the sole intent of immigration, even if they know they can’t afford the tuition fees and their courses won’t get them beyond a warehouse, factory or retail job.

Yet, he says many can’t resist the allure of the opportunity for permanent residence and a life toiling in low-wage, low-skilled jobs in Canada that still pay more than what they would earn back home.

If the international education strategy really aims to attract the best and the brightest, he says, permanent residency should be limited to the students who are at the top in their fields by lowering their tuition and making schooling affordable to them.

“Until you get rid of the profit motive, problems are going to keep coming, because the incentive is always just more numbers,” says Kahlon.

Sixty per cent of international students do plan to apply for permanent residence in Canada, but only three in 10 international students who entered the country in 2000 or later ended up obtaining permanent residence within 10 years.

While some fail to complete their education or secure employment for immigration, others find opportunities elsewhere and leave.

“Higher-education admission policies and procedures have a very different goal than the admission criteria for economic immigrants,” says Grunner, the UBC researcher. “That difference is not always clear to students before they come to Canada.

“The message they get is that Canada wants international students. That’s the policy message that gets communicated. International students are desired by Canada for their labour. We got that message very clear because it says that international students can now work for the next year with unlimited hours. And international students are desired as potential immigrants.”

Diversifying where and what students choose to study

Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, says there is capacity to absorb more international students, though that capacity isn’t evenly distributed across the country.

Governments, education institutions, immigrant settlement agencies, local communities and employers all have a stake in ensuring international students’ experience and well-being, he says.

“It’s really important that international students get credible information and are supported in every step of their training,” says Davidson, whose organization is the voice for 93 Canadian universities. “There are people making false claims about what their experience in Canada will be and we need to call that out.”

Denise Amyot, his counterpart at Colleges and Institutes Canada, says the federal government not only needs to diversify the source of international students here (currently 35 per cent from India; 17 per cent from China; and four per cent from France), but also where and what they choose to study.

Her organization released a report last year, calling for new permanent residency streams and supports for colleges to improve their labour market outcomes.

“I would be in favour of accelerating permanent residency for students that are in the areas of skills that we need,” says Amyot, who also would like to see international students be eligible for government-funded co-op and job programs.

“It’s important that students do their homework (and ask), ‘How I will be integrated into the community,’ where they look at the best possible scenario for what they want to do and what’s their intentions moving forward.”

Global Affairs Canada says the government has aimed to diversify the countries of origin of its international students, promote study opportunities, especially outside of major urban centres, and showcase sectors to highlight areas of labour shortages and encourage study in those fields through digital marketing initiatives.

Several targeted international ad campaigns will be carried out to promote programs in STEM, artificial intelligence and quantum technologies, the department says. Consultations are underway to renew the country’s international education strategy.

Striking a balance

Sana Banu, an international student from India, can’t say enough about the amazing experience she’s had at Kitchener, Ont.-based Conestoga College, despite all the challenges her peers face and a pathway to permanent residence that’s full of pitfalls.

It has given her experience that has pushed her out of her comfort zone, says the 29-year-old, who came here in 2018 to study marketing and communication with an undergrad degree and eight years of work experience in advertising back home.

International students are a diverse group, each with their expectations and intentions, and it’s impossible to generalize everyone’s experience.

To Banu, the issues come down to equity — whether it’s about the hefty and uncapped international tuition fees or job opportunities that usually favour permanent residents and citizens.

“The relationship shouldn’t be predatory,” says Banu, president and CEO of Conestoga’s student association, who was recently invited to apply for permanent residence. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that international students provide to Canada and Canada provides to international students.

“It’s important that everybody sees the human side of an international student rather than just as a resource to fill your economic gaps and contribute to your economy exclusively. They are humans, who are coming here with expectations, dreams and hopes. And you could do a lot more in treating them with more dignity, equity and compassion.”

Source: How Canada can fix its ‘predatory’ relationship with international students

Canada’s international education strategy has been an undisputable success — the envy of other nations — attracting foreign students to come and study with the promise of work opportunities and the prospect of permanent residency and citizenship.

Over the years, the campaign has injected billions into the economy, created a pipeline of immigrants and fuelled a post-secondary education sector that struggled with declining public funding and falling domestic enrolment.

But that successful formula and unfettered growth seems to have reached a tipping point.

Students who are falling through the cracks are starting to question whether their investment of time and money, by way of hefty tuition fees, is paying off.

And Canada doesn’t need a crystal ball to see what lies ahead.

“A CASH cow is all very well, and a fine thing when it is happily chomping in the field. But what happens when it grows horns, turns nasty and demands that you feed it more and look after it better?”

That was a question raised in an article published in The Age, one of Australia’s oldest and most reputable newspapers, back in 2008. At the time, Australia was seeing an exponential growth in international enrolment that made the then-$12.5 billion international education sector its third-largest export after coal and iron.

“There is pressure on the industry from without and within. Increasing competition from foreign universities in the global race for market share, Australian universities at capacity, and a growing perception that Australia’s international students have been exploited on one hand, and neglected on the other, are biting hard,” the story continued.

There were other reports about international students in Australia being “underpaid and exploited” as a labour underclass, of students struggling with social isolation, feeling unhappy with the immigration prospects and facing “severe overcrowding” in rooming houses, including one extreme case where 48 students were living in a six-bedroom property.

Canada has been following a similar trajectory, some say.

The pandemic has further exposed international students’ precariousness and our country’s disjointed education and immigration systems, which leave students disillusioned amid a patchwork of support that relies on the goodwill of the schools, employers and local communities.

More and more international students in Canada are publicly complaining about exploitation and wage thefts by bad employers and landlords, the financial and emotional hardship of the journey, and the unfulfilled immigration dream sold to them by unscrupulous education recruiters.

Increasingly, there’s a recognition that what they have been promised is not exactly what they’re getting. while studying in Canada is not a guaranteed pathway for permanent residence that many expect.

It’s led to a growing chorus of voices calling on the Canadian government to refresh its strategy to ensure its international enrolment growth is sustainable and its appeal as a destination of choice will last.

But what would a reset, recalibrated international student program look like in Canada?

There is some no shortage of possibilities.

Resetting Canada’s international education strategy

The Canadian government launched an aggressive campaign in 2014 to boost its annual number of international students to more than 450,000 by 2022.

The country has long surpassed that goal.

Last year, there were 845,930 valid study permit holders in Canada, which rose to 917,445 as of Sept. 30 of this year.

International students, through their spending and tuition, contribute $22 billion to the Canadian economy and support 170,000 jobs in the country.

Those international students, who typically pay up to four times more in tuition than their domestic counterparts, are a godsend to many Canadian colleges and universities to help fill classroom seats and keep courses open for domestic students who otherwise would’ve had fewer options from which to choose. They are also embraced by employers desperate for temporary help at gas stations, restaurants and factories to keep businesses running.

Yet there have been increasing public calls for the federal government to better align academic goals, Canada’s economic needs and the interests of students.

The RBC has recently recommended Ottawa to be more strategic in leveraging and expanding its international student pool in the global race for skilled workers post-pandemic; the Conference Board of Canada in a separate report urged better co-ordination to ensure the number of international students admitted are in line with thelevel of permanent residents admitted each year to avoid further “friction.”

Australia moved to reset its own system.

International enrolment there had blossomed from 256,553 in 2002 to 583,483 in 2009 as migrants were drawn by the opportunities to work and stay in the country permanently before Canberra decided to rein in an unruly sector by “desegregating education and immigration.”

Australian officials began asking education institutions to register international education agents who worked for them and to review their performances based on student enrolment outcomes.

The bar for permanent residence was raised and limited to those who completed degree-level programs, postgraduate programs and regulated professions such as nursing, engineering and social work.

All applicants must submit a statement detailing their personal circumstances and why they pursue a particular program in Australia. Each is assessed based on the study plan, as well as factors such as the economic situation, military service commitments and even political and civil unrest in the person’s home country to make sure they are “genuine temporary entrants.”

Today, international education is still worth about $34 billion (Canadian) to Australia’s economy, with 418,168 in higher education out of 882,482 students in international enrolment in 2020. The rest were mainly in language training and vocational schools.

International students, meanwhile, go where the opportunities are. Experts say students traditionally turn to other jurisdictions with fewer perceived barriers when countries such as Australia restrict the pipeline.

Students “are using commercial agents to find the cheapest, most affordable routes there are,” says Chris Ziguras, a professor at RMIT University in Melbourne, who studies the globalization of education.

“At the moment, I think there’s a lot of students clearly voting with their feet and choosing that pathway into Canada over other pathways which are more expensive, more difficult and more restrictive. And that’s why we’re seeing the bulge there.”

A patchwork of settlement supports for foreign students

Noor Azrieh didn’t know anyone in Canada when she came to Carleton University in 2018 for a four-year journalism and human rights program. The 22-year-old Lebanese says she has had issues finding housing and skilled jobs because of her temporary status.

Landlords would often ask for six-to-eight-month rent deposits and demand a Canadian guarantor, while employers lost interest in hiring her once they found out she was here on a time-limited post-graduate work permit.

“It feels like you are doing this entirely alone. And maybe that’s just how it is,” says Azrieh, who works full time as an associate producer at CANADALAND. “Maybe I wasn’t ready to move across the country, across the globe, to a country that I didn’t know. But it felt like I was doing everything alone.”

.Colleges and universities are educational institutions, and some don’t have the capacity to properly support international students, who lack access to the kind of settlement services designed exclusively for permanent residents.

In light of the service gaps, immigrant agencies in B.C. now provide support for international students and temporary foreign workers through one-on-one information and referral, workshops and support groups.

Nova Scotia also launched a pilot program recently that offers international students in their final year help with career development opportunities and community connections to successfully transition to permanent residence.

However, these supports are piecemeal and it’s unclear who is responsible for the costs and the students’ well-being, says Lisa Brunner, a University of British Columbia doctoral student, whose research focuses on immigration, higher education and internationalization.

“If you’re coming from an institution’s perspective, my goal is to support students in their education and their experience in Canada, versus the government saying, ‘OK, we want to support this person because they’re a future immigrant and we want to retain them,’ ” she says.

“Those are two different types of services.

“The way it’s structured now works well for the government, because essentially the students themselves are responsible for the settlement process. Either they acquire the capital that’s necessary to succeed in the labour market to qualify for permanent residence or they don’t. In this way, the government doesn’t have to fund the services.”

“We all acknowledge giving access to students to those (settlement and support) services from the beginning of their journeys would be a tremendous return on investment for Canada,” says Larissa Bezo, president and CEO of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, a not-for-profit organization that aims to promote and advance Canadian international education.

“There’s a shared responsibility that we have … And in a federation like ours, that’s complex. I’m under no illusion. But we need to do a better job of connecting these dots.”

Coming out of the pandemic, Bezo says, Canada’s global brand has remained strong as Canadian governments and the sector pivoted in supporting international students through the crisis as other countries such as Australia asked their students to go home.

Clear messaging to international students

Balraj Kahlon, who co-founded One Voice Canada in British Columbia in 2019 to support and advocate for international students, says Canada’s international education strategy has been “ruthlessly” successful.

“The whole objective of international education is just to make money and to grow the economy. It has really little to do with education,” says Kahlon. “If we’re honest about what the international education strategy is, it is just to raise Canada’s GDP.”

He says the country’s international enrolment has increasingly been coming from the working poor in developing countries, lured by Canada’s relatively low tuition fees, the chance to work and make money to pay off family loans for the studies, and sometimes misinformation by unscrupulous education agents about the direct pathway for permanent residence.

He says many international students these days are pursuing the cheaper and shorter programs at colleges with the sole intent of immigration, even if they know they can’t afford the tuition fees and their courses won’t get them beyond a warehouse, factory or retail job.

Yet, he says many can’t resist the allure of the opportunity for permanent residence and a life toiling in low-wage, low-skilled jobs in Canada that still pay more than what they would earn back home.

If the international education strategy really aims to attract the best and the brightest, he says, permanent residency should be limited to the students who are at the top in their fields by lowering their tuition and making schooling affordable to them.

“Until you get rid of the profit motive, problems are going to keep coming, because the incentive is always just more numbers,” says Kahlon.

Sixty per cent of international students do plan to apply for permanent residence in Canada, but only three in 10 international students who entered the country in 2000 or later ended up obtaining permanent residence within 10 years.

While some fail to complete their education or secure employment for immigration, others find opportunities elsewhere and leave.

“Higher-education admission policies and procedures have a very different goal than the admission criteria for economic immigrants,” says Grunner, the UBC researcher. “That difference is not always clear to students before they come to Canada.

“The message they get is that Canada wants international students. That’s the policy message that gets communicated. International students are desired by Canada for their labour. We got that message very clear because it says that international students can now work for the next year with unlimited hours. And international students are desired as potential immigrants.”

Diversifying where and what students choose to study

Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, says there is capacity to absorb more international students, though that capacity isn’t evenly distributed across the country.

Governments, education institutions, immigrant settlement agencies, local communities and employers all have a stake in ensuring international students’ experience and well-being, he says.

“It’s really important that international students get credible information and are supported in every step of their training,” says Davidson, whose organization is the voice for 93 Canadian universities. “There are people making false claims about what their experience in Canada will be and we need to call that out.”

Denise Amyot, his counterpart at Colleges and Institutes Canada, says the federal government not only needs to diversify the source of international students here (currently 35 per cent from India; 17 per cent from China; and four per cent from France), but also where and what they choose to study.

Her organization released a report last year, calling for new permanent residency streams and supports for colleges to improve their labour market outcomes.

“I would be in favour of accelerating permanent residency for students that are in the areas of skills that we need,” says Amyot, who also would like to see international students be eligible for government-funded co-op and job programs.

“It’s important that students do their homework (and ask), ‘How I will be integrated into the community,’ where they look at the best possible scenario for what they want to do and what’s their intentions moving forward.”

Global Affairs Canada says the government has aimed to diversify the countries of origin of its international students, promote study opportunities, especially outside of major urban centres, and showcase sectors to highlight areas of labour shortages and encourage study in those fields through digital marketing initiatives.

Several targeted international ad campaigns will be carried out to promote programs in STEM, artificial intelligence and quantum technologies, the department says. Consultations are underway to renew the country’s international education strategy.

Striking a balance

Sana Banu, an international student from India, can’t say enough about the amazing experience she’s had at Kitchener, Ont.-based Conestoga College, despite all the challenges her peers face and a pathway to permanent residence that’s full of pitfalls.

It has given her experience that has pushed her out of her comfort zone, says the 29-year-old, who came here in 2018 to study marketing and communication with an undergrad degree and eight years of work experience in advertising back home.

International students are a diverse group, each with their expectations and intentions, and it’s impossible to generalize everyone’s experience.

To Banu, the issues come down to equity — whether it’s about the hefty and uncapped international tuition fees or job opportunities that usually favour permanent residents and citizens.

“The relationship shouldn’t be predatory,” says Banu, president and CEO of Conestoga’s student association, who was recently invited to apply for permanent residence. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that international students provide to Canada and Canada provides to international students.

“It’s important that everybody sees the human side of an international student rather than just as a resource to fill your economic gaps and contribute to your economy exclusively. They are humans, who are coming here with expectations, dreams and hopes. And you could do a lot more in treating them with more dignity, equity and compassion.”

Source: How Canada can fix its ‘predatory’ relationship with international students

Australia: It’s on and off again for foreign students wanting to work [hours cap]

Removal of cap on the number of hours students can work when courses in session, with same weak policy rationales as in Canada apart from low-paid service jobs:

Before and after Australian borders were closed during the pandemic, it was common to see young Indian and Nepali women working in cafés and as cashiers in shopping malls. Young Indian men dominated home delivery systems and were common sights stocking shelves and cleaning supermarkets in Sydney. They were foreign students who were allowed to work limited hours per week.

After some 30 years of resisting pressure from various employer bodies to remove the 40-hour per fortnight cap on the number of hours student visa holders could work while their course was in session, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke rolled over to pressure from the hospitality, tourism and other industries in May 2021 and announced that overseas students in Australia could work unlimited hours in the hospitality and tourism industry that was facing a serious shortage of labour. 

Bowing to criticism that the move was intended to solve a labour crisis and would dent education quality, that decision was subsequently qualified by another announcement in September 2022: unrestricted work rights for student visa holders will end on 30 June next year.

In a statement on its website, the Department of Home Affairs said the reimposition of the cap was aimed at ensuring that students “focus on obtaining a quality Australian education and qualification”.

Until then, it is likely that the international students will continue to take advantage of their ability to legally work unlimited hours. 

When restrictions were lifted in May 2021, the country saw a palpable spike in student visa applications from South Asia after Australia opened its borders in November 2021. 

By April this year, Nepal had become the biggest source of foreign students to Australia, with student visa applications from that country hovering above the 4,500 mark in March and April, while those from India and China were close to about 3,000 per month. 

Before the pandemic, India and China had provided the largest foreign student market for Australia. Given the huge middle-class populations of China and India, how did Nepal overtake them to become Australia’s largest source of foreign students? 

Vocational education and training

According to Australian government statistics, there has been a large increase in vocational education and training (VET) sector offshore student applications from Nepal this year. 

Since Australia’s borders re-opened, there have been more VET sector offshore student applications from Nepalese nationals than from India, China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka put together. Chinese and Indian applicants continue to prefer a university education.

The VET sector has traditionally recruited its students from those who are already in Australia, often poached from among university students who, after a year or two of undergraduate studies, feel they need a change in career focus. 

Australian immigration authorities have traditionally subjected offshore VET applicants to a high degree of scrutiny and hence there has been a high refusal rate. The approval rate for Nepalese offshore primary VET sector student applicants has, since November 2021, averaged well over 80%. 

This worries Dr Abul Rizvi, a former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration. He argued in a commentary published by Independent Australia in May this year that Australia’s student visa is now essentially an “unsponsored work visa rather than one focused on study”. 

This view is shared by a Sydney-based Nepali immigration agent (who did not want to be named) who told University World News that Nepali parents are ever willing to fork out the money – even if they have to borrow it – to get a student visa to send their child for education to Australia, because they know they can recoup that money quickly. 

“Once in Australia the student could self-finance the studies by working and in the long term they can even earn the family an income by working after graduation,” he said. “If the child wants to go to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand or India for studies, parents are unlikely to fork out the money for it.”

Post-graduation work rights for degree-holders

Last month, at the conclusion of the Jobs and Skills Summit, Australia’s Minister for Education Jason Clare announced that post-graduation work rights for international students will be increased by two years from next year. 

Thus, bachelor degree graduates can stay on and work in Australia for four years and masters degree graduates for five. It is believed that nursing, engineering and IT students will be top priority areas. 

In an interview with the government-owned network SBS, a spokesperson for the home affairs minister said: “They’re the graduates that the government believes Australia needs, and they can go straight into a sector where there is a shortage of high-skilled workers”. He said that “Australia needs to better use the amazing resource of international students”.

“The overwhelming majority of ‘students’ from India and Nepal come to Australia for work rights and permanent residency, not for education,” argued Leith van Onselen, chief economist and co-founder of MacroBusiness. 

He said the government’s overseas student policy is geared towards expanding student numbers, not improving quality. “All of which proves, yet again, that ‘international education’ is really a people-importing immigration industry rather than a genuine education export industry,” Van Onselen said.

Placement consultant and South Asian community leader Ash Gholkar argued that the problem lies with frequent changes by the authorities. 

“Students are not happy because the rules and points keep changing. There’s too much uncertainty. Students should get to be assessed on the points requirements prevalent at the time they enter Australia to begin their programme,” he argued. “Else, in many cases, students take up a course on a demand list only to find, after the course is completed and they’ve had sufficient experience, that the demand list and points have changed.”

Gholkar told University World News that Australia is attractive to Indian students because of its high standard of living and its Commonwealth heritage that makes adapting and living familiar and easier. “Indian students get the benefit of a world-class education and a chance to apply for skilled migration,” he added. 

Solving a skills crisis

Dr Belle Lim, a past national president of the Council of International Students Australia, argues that international students are a ready-made solution to solving Australia’s skills crisis. There are over 470,000 international students in Australia who possess local qualifications, with the most popular fields being commerce and management, IT, engineering and health sciences. 

With young Australian-born people changing jobs regularly, “taking into account the loyalty that international graduates have towards their employers (ironically due to a smaller set of options), hiring them is less risky”, she noted in a recent column for Women’s Agenda

Exactly for that reason, Sri Lankan-born Australian occupational health specialist Mahinda Seneviratne is concerned that students could be exploited as cheap migrant labour. He chairs the scientific committee of the International Commission on Occupational Health, and with colleagues in the Indo-Pacific region, he is involved in research on workplace safety for migrant labour. 

“Various short-term work visa programmes and ‘students’ coming in as low-wage workers have been the backbone of many small businesses [in Australia] in recent years, particularly in hospitality and service industries,” he told University World News

“Their precarious situation as casual, informal workers undermines working conditions, including their health and safety at work,” warned Seneviratne.

Source: It’s on and off again for foreign students wanting to work

Australian immigration rockets back

Of note:

Recall that Australia’s net overseas migration (NOM) hit its highest ever level in the March quarter, with a record 96,200 net migrants arriving:

Net overseas migration

Highest ever NOM in March quarter.

Now the ABS has released permanent and long-term arrivals data for August, which revealed that annual arrivals have surged to 121,270.

The below chart tracks this series against the official quarterly NOM and suggests that immigration has continued to surge:

Australian net immigration

Australian immigration surging.

The Albanese Government used last month’s Jobs & Skills Summit as a trojan horse to turbo-charge immigration via:

  • Lifting Australia’s permanent non-humanitarian migrant intake by 35,000 to a record high 195,000;
  • Lifting temporary migration to record levels by:
    • Expanding work rights for international students via:
      • Uncapping the number of hours international students can work while studying for another year; and
      • Extending the length of post-study work visas by two years.
    • Committing to clear the ‘backlog’ of “nearly one million” visas awaiting approval.

In turn, Australia is staring down the barrel of record immigration flows next year, which will make Australia’s rental crisis worse and make it impossible to meet Australia’s 43% emissions reduction target.

The major concern is that the planned record immigration will arrive as the economy hits the brakes on the back of the Reserve Bank’s aggressive monetary tightening.

This time next year, concerns around “skills shortages” will likely have vanished, replaced with concerns around low growth and rising unemployment.

Source: Australian immigration rockets back

ICYMI: Australia lifts permanent immigration by 35,000 to 195,000

Of note:

The Australian government announced on Friday it will increase its permanent immigration intake by 35,000 to 195,000 in the current fiscal year as the nation grapples with skills and labor shortages.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil announced the increase for the year ending June 30, 2023, during a two-day summit of 140 representatives of governments, trade unions, businesses and industry to address skills shortages exacerbated by the pandemic.

O’Neill said Australian nurses have been working double and triple shifts for the past two years, flights were being canceled because of a lack of ground staff and fruit was being left to rot on trees because there was no one to pick it.

“Our focus is always Australian jobs first, and that’s why so much of the summit has focused on training and on the participation of women and other marginalized groups,” O’Neil said.

“But the impact of COVID has been so severe that even if we exhaust every other possibility, we will still be many thousands of workers short, at least in the short term,” she added.

O’Neil said many of the “best and brightest minds” were choosing to migrate to Canada, Germany and Britain instead of Australia.

She described Australia’s immigration program as “fiendishly complex” with more than 70 unique visa programs.

Australia would establish a panel to rebuild its immigration program in the national interest, she said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced on Thursday, the first day of the Jobs and Skills Summit, that 180,000 free places would be offed in vocational education schools next year at a cost of 1.1 billion Australian dollars ($748,000) to reduce the nation’s skills shortage.

Australia imposed some of the strictest international travel restrictions of an democratic country for 20 months early in the pandemic and gradually reopened to skilled workers from December last year.

Source: Australia lifts permanent immigration by 35,000 to 195,000

The Darkness Down Under: Australia Still Reckons With Racism [Indigenous focus]

Surprised Canada not used also as a comparison as parallels and differences more comparable:

Uluru—a monumental, cathedral-like rock that stands alone in the western deserts of Central Australia—may seem an unlikely place from which to reflect on the scourge of violence against Black Americans that stains the U.S. body-politic today. But understanding the consequences of one event that happened far away in 1934 is a powerful reminder that the struggle to make Black lives matter and counter white supremacist violence transcends national boundaries.

In June 1931, Constable Bill McKinnon arrived in Alice Springs to take up his appointment as a police officer in central Australia. He was barely thirty—lean, brash, and tough—a no-nonsense raconteur with a sharp tongue and unyielding determination.

In 1934, after chasing down six Aboriginal men for the killing of an Aboriginal man that had taken place under tribal law, he cornered one man in a cave and shot and killed him at Uluru, a place that has long been sacred for the Anangu, its traditional owners, and is now spiritually significant for the entire nation.

Source: The Darkness Down Under: Australia Still Reckons With Racism

New immigration detention bill could give Australia a fresh chance to comply with international law

Of interest:

Last week, independent MP Andrew Wilkie reintroduced to federal parliament the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2022. This bill gives Australia the chance to bring its immigration detention regime in line with basic international law requirements for the first time since 1992.Wilkie’s bill presents a timely opportunity for the new federal government to reform a regime that leading legal and human rights organisations have called “inhumane, unnecessary, and unlawful”.

Australia’s human rights commitment

Australia has committed to uphold human rights and protect refugees, including committing to not arbitrarily or indefinitely detain adults or children. Despite this, under Australia’s current mandatory detention regime, non-citizens without a valid visa must be detained as a first resort for potentially indefinite periods and without access to review by a court.Australia’s commitments under international law are not enforceable under Australian law unless they are implemented through legislation. This means that in the absence of legislation that fully protects the right to liberty, the Australian High Court has consistently held that indefinite immigration detention is lawful under Australian law.

International criticism

The UN has repeatedly condemned Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees as contrary to Australia’s international obligations and “an affront to the protection of human rights”. This includes statements and decisions from:

  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in 2018
  • the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, in 2017
  • the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, in 2015 and 2017
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in 2017
  • The UN Human Rights Committee in 2013.

International criticisms have largely focused on Australia’s failure to respect the rights of individuals to not be detained arbitrarily or indefinitely; subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; or returned to a place where they will face a real risk of harm.Despite widespread condemnation of Australia’s system of mandatory and indefinite detention, over 1400 people remain in onshore immigration detention facilities today. A further 217 people remain on Nauru and Manus.In April 2022, the average period of time people were held in immigration detention facilities in Australia was 726 days. Of those in onshore detention, 136 have been detained for more than five years.

“Detention without charge or guilt”

Wilkie’s bill proposes abolishing the existing system of mandatory detention. Under the bill, detention of non-citizens without valid visas could only be ordered where it is necessary and proportionate to the circumstances. This would require an individual assessment.Detention would be authorised in Australia only (not offshore) for certain purposes, and only as a measure of last resort after all alternatives have been considered. Adults could only be detained for a maximum of three months and children for seven days. While extensions may be necessary in certain circumstances, detention would be subject to independent oversight and judicial review by the courts.When introducing the bill, Wilkie argued this legislation was urgently needed as

we face the bizarre and outrageous situation in this country where someone, in some circumstances, can be detained indefinitely, without charge and without having been found guilty of anything.

He described this as a punitive arrangement that is immoral and shows “a terrible indifference and arrogance to international law”.In seconding the bill, independent MP Kylea Tink said“Australia’s immigration regime is unique in the world. It is uniquely cruel.” Tink also noted Wilkie’s point that the regime came with a vast financial and human toll, costing Australian taxpayers between $360,000 – $460,000 per year to hold a person in immigration detention in Australia.Independent MP Monique Ryan recognised that

Australia’s immigration detention regime causes severe and widespread mental and physical health impacts on people seeking refuge.

Australia’s negative human rights record also affects its ability to hold other countries to account for human rights violations. China accused Australia of human rights hypocrisy after it criticised China’s repression of the Uyghur ethnic minority. And China is certainly not alone in its criticisms.While legislation alone is not enough, it could provide a significant first step in bringing Australia’s immigration detention regime in line with its human rights obligations.Both major political parties in Australia have historically supported onshore and offshore mandatory detention of non-citizens.However, with the current make-up of the parliament and a new government committed to uniting Australians around “our shared values of fairness and opportunity” and “kindness to those in need”, this is an opportunity for Australia to demonstrate a renewed commitment to international law and the fundamental principles on which the UN system is based.

Source: New immigration detention bill could give Australia a fresh chance to comply with international law

Australia: Home Affairs told to allocate staff to clear visa backlog

Canada not the only country to have backlogs:

The government has directed the Department of Home Affairs to devote more staff to clearing the visa backlog, naming it an ‘urgent priority’.

Minister for immigration, citizenship and multicultural affairs Andrew Giles cautioned the backlog would not be cleared overnight.

“People reallocated to dealing with the visa applications on hand need to be trained and skilled before they can go about this important work,” Giles said.

Since May 2022, 140 new department staff have been placed in visa processing roles.

The minister added the number of applications in June was 6.5% higher than in May, with a 10.6% increase in applications finalised. Since June 2022, 745,000 visa applications have been finalised.

Giles was also critical of the previous government, saying the backlog had risen to nearly one million under it.

Former immigration minister Dan Tehan — now shadow minister for immigration and citizenship — has said the visa backlog was due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the commitments that we had when we were in government was obviously to make sure that we got rid of that backlog and we had put extra resources to ensure that would happen,” Tehan told SBS Hindi.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) is currently assessing the Department of Home Affairs’ management of family reunion and partner-related visas, due to be tabled in November. The ANAO is currently taking contributions from the public on this matter.

On student visas, Department of Education secretary Michele Bruniges is working alongside Department of Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo to clear the backlog of student visas, as previously reported in The Mandarin.

Last week, education minister Jason Clare said Home Affairs had brought on more than 100 staff to deal with the backlog.

Source: Home Affairs told to allocate staff to clear visa backlog