Warning over international student group in NSW

November 14, 2013

The government of New South Wales, Australia, has issued a warning to international students in relation to the activities of the Overseas Students Association (OSA), with students being urged not to pass visa and passport information to the group.

Andrew Stoner, NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Trade & Investment, said, “The OSA is purporting to represent international students in NSW, however, it is not supported or recognised by the NSW Government, education providers, industry peak bodies or international students organisations.”

The OSA offers a safety card to international students and collects visa and passport information to issue them. The statement said that the safety card provided no immediate benefits for international students when dealing with the police.

The government statement also said, “The OSA website carries false information about discounts for OSA Safety Card holders to NSW cultural institutions.”

Convenor of the Vice Chancellors’ Committee, Professor Caroline McMillen, said the state’s 11 universities had come together to tackle concerns about the activities of OSA. “We do not recognise the OSA as an organisation acting in the best interests of international students,” she said. “The OSA has disrupted student elections, there have been many reports of threatening and bullying behaviour, and some OSA representatives have been banned from campuses.”

Council of International Students Australia (CISA) President Thomson Ch’ng said CISA was recognised as the national peak body for international students, adding many international students didn’t know OSA was not an official body and some had been intimidated. “That’s why this statement is so important. It’s bought the whole sector together to warn international students that the OSA is not recognised or supported by the government, CISA or education providers,” he said.

According to a report in The Australian, the OSA, a subsidiary of the National Liaison Committee, denied any wrongdoing and will make a formal to the NSW Ombudsman and the Australian Human Rights Commission. “It’s a direct violation of human rights international students to organise their own overseas association on campus,” the group’s leader, Master Cheng, said to the newspaper.

The warning statement was supported by several organisations including: the NSW Police Force, peak international education bodies such as English Australia and Acpet, the 11 universities in NSW and a number of cultural institutions.

The full statement can be read here.

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