Support of refugee student scholarship holders

A partnership between COFA and the University of Adelaide.

The Guest Speaker at this year’s AGM was Alexander Reilly, Professor of Law, Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide. He spoke about how the Universities the value of asylum seekers gaining access to tertiary education. Yet the government classifies asylum seekers as foreign students making University fees for these students are prohibitively high.

In response the University of Adelaide has a program which provides Scholarships to cover the University fees. But the scholarship doesn’t provide any income for the student’s living costs and the students who receive scholarships become ineligible for Centrelink support. It is hard for them to find work, and even if they do, insufficient time is left for study, and without another source of income most would have been forced to drop out. Circles of Friends Australia has been providing vital support for 13 of the 24 student scholarship holders. With only one exception, the scholastic performance of these students has been excellent, most consistently achieving high distinctions and distinctions.

Prof. Reilly also briefed us on the most recent figures on numbers of asylum seekers, including numbers held offshore, and in on-shore detention. For the most up-to-date figures, please see the relevant page in the web site of the Refugee Council of Australia.

Prof. Reilly concluded with the observation:

“It strikes me that the work of COFA reflects all that is wrong in government policy – filling gaps – Family reunion, reviews, assistance with basic living. There was great hope that after the last election there would be a change in policy, but the status quo has remained.

Since February 2018, Circles have raised and spent over $45,000 to support these students. The project is an example of teamwork. Circles participating include Blackwood Hills, and now also Henrietta’s Vinnies Circle, which have provided monthly living allowances, and helped with rent and utility bills. St Ignatius Refugee Support Group has provided computers and other educational materials, Rapid Response Circle has helped with rent, utility bills, and medical and dental costs, and Catherine’s Circle 124 has provided food boxes for a number of them. We are grateful for the generosity of the donors to each participating Circle, and the fine work of Terri Finn, the University’s Student Welfare Officer.