Senate Report

Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee

Welfare of International Students

 

Extracts from Pages 38-40

The following is an extract from the Senate Inquiry into the welfare of International Students findings that were announced in November 2009:

 

Homestays

3.65 The committee heard that homestays are a popular form of accommodation for international students. Many international students have never lived away from home before, making homestays a convenient accommodation option for students which avoids the challenges of navigating the private rental market.

3.66 The committee received evidence from a number of organisations that use or promote homestay networks to their international students. TAFE Directors Australia informed the committee that where TAFE Institutions were unable to house international students, they use a network of local homestays. Ms Virginia Simmons told the committee that TAFE institutions are in regular contact with students and assist them to change homestays if they are not happy.55 Ms Christine Bundesen, English Australia told the committee that around 40 or 50 per cent of ELICOS students live in homestay accommodation, as ‘part of the learning experience for language is actually using language in a living experience’.56

3.67 However, concerns were expressed regarding a lack of regulation of the homestay industry. Dr Felicity Fallon, ISANA, told the committee that there needs to be more regulation of the industry:

We believe there needs to be some sort of regulation of the homestay industry…Those who work on the ground and actually deal with what goes on know that, even with homestays, you spend a lot of time sorting out problems to do with those homestays.57

55 Ms Virginia Simmons, Committee Hansard, 1 September 2009, p. 18. 56 Ms Christine Bundesen, Committee Hansard, 2 September 2009, p. 7.

57 Dr Felicity Fallon, Committee Hansard, 1 September 2009, p. 55.

3.68 The Australian Homestay Network (AHN) is the only national network of homestay supervisors, and is responsible for the largest trained homestay host pool and homestay placements in Australia. The AHN recognised the need for minimum standards to be met by the sector, and suggested a number of measures to guarantee positive outcomes for students.

AHN remarked that many homestay hosts are being recruited and provided with students, with no guidelines, supervision, training or support. In such instances, AHN argued that this creates:

…a higher risk of an incident which damages the reputation of Australian education. Cultural exchange is a high priority for students and hosts and direction and support are essential.58

3.69 AHN identified two homestay websites that fail to ensure satisfactory quality control. This presents opportunities for unscrupulous hosts to participate and take advantage of the vulnerabilities of international students.59 AHN argued that successful homestay programs cannot be conducted through an unsupervised program, and that house inspections and minimum standards are essential. As such, AHN recommended that government introduce legislation to ensure that all homestay managers meet minimum standards in their training, support and operating procedures for hosts and international students.60 In order to encourage potential homestay hosts, AHN argued for increased promotion of the tax-free status that is attributed to homestay revenue.61

3.70 International Education Services commended the work of the AHN, and argued that increased homestay accommodation would be useful to address the general housing shortages being experienced. Mr Christopher Evason told the committee:

IES maintain that further promotion of quality homestay is the only viable solution. Homestay aids social inclusion and the interaction of international students with mainstream Australian society. The industry itself is making valuable improvements in the management of homestay services. IES use an innovative system offered by the Australian Homestay Network…The Darebin Council have also recognised the substantial quality assurance measures provided by the AHN.62

 

Committee View

3.71 The committee accepts the evidence that homestay accommodation is beneficial to international students, the host family as well as the community at large.

The committee supports calls for more homestay arrangements for international students as part of the solution to accommodation shortages, although the committee recognises the need to ensure minimum standards are met. The committee commends the Australian Homestay Network for ensuring that it meets the appropriate standards.

The introduction of mandated industry standards should involve appropriate industry consultation and a careful assessment of the costs and benefits.63

58 Australian Homestay Network, Submission 32, p. 5.

59 Australian Homestay Network, Submission 32, p. 5.60 Australian Homestay Network,

Submission 32, p. 4.

61 Australian Homestay Network, Submission 32, pp 7–8.62 Mr Chris Evason,

Committee Hansard, 18 September 2009, p. 43.

63 Auzzie Family Homestay Care, Submission 142, p. 2.