Overseas students left in the lurch with cuts to skilled list
By Clare Barnes
The Sydney Morning Herald, June 30, 2010
Motivated by her grandmother's example Rebekah Rai has spent $23,000 studying for a career in aged care since arriving from Nepal two years ago.
''In Nepal my grandmother always cooked and cared for me so I feel I have a responsibility to older people,'' she said.
Ms Rai had also hoped her diploma in community welfare would help her get permanent residency. But community welfare is one of more than 200 jobs to be taken off the federal government's Skilled Occupation List tomorrow. Having skills on the list is a requirement to apply for permanent residency.
''I have spent my whole income to study in Australia and only now has the government changed the rules so that I no longer meet the requirements,'' Ms Rai said. ''All I'm asking is that the government keep the same conditions as when I first applied for the course.''
The changes trim the previous list of 400 occupations to 181, cutting hairdressers and chefs.
The Immigration Department says the list is subject to change to accommodate Australia's needs.
The changes to visa requirements have angered the education industry. The Immigration Department had mishandled the changes with ad hoc decision-making, said Andrew Smith, the chief executive of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training.
''This has brought about a huge loss in confidence in people wanting to come to Australia,'' he said.
A report by the council says that Australia faces an estimated loss of 33,000 jobs and $3.8 billion in the next 18 months. There has been a 30 per cent drop in student applications to Australia.
''Certain students have had the rules changed from beneath them, institutions across NSW have already closed, and others are fearful for their jobs,'' Mr Smith said.
The only viable option for many students affected will be to begin their studies again in an area which is covered on the list.
''If I study social work at university it will cost me at least another $40,000 and I have no guarantee the government after four years of study won't change the list again,'' Ms Rai said.