A few years ago, I left Malaysia for the first time to embark on a study abroad journey in Australia. It was the first time I left home. I was excited in the beginning. The first few months were like a honeymoon. But the harsh reality kicked in after three months.
Like my peers, language and cultural barriers were key challenges. English isn’t my first language. But I knew that in order to achieve success as an international student in Australia, my main goal was to improve my English.
I then got involved in a campus student association to maximize my opportunities to enhance my communication skills and English language competency. As a result, I was invited to a forum to inaugurate the National Peak student representative organization to advocate for the needs of all international students in Australia. I was then elected as National Secretary and subsequently National President a few years later.
In this role, I have been able to witness how international students were being exploited in workplaces such as restaurants, retailers, cleaning companies and many other industry where international students tend to work part-time in.
This includes underpayment, workplace harassment, discrimination, bullying and other form of exploitation which are all considered against the Fair Work regulation in Australia.
The good news is there were a few who are willing to stand up and speak up against the wrong behaviours of those unscrupulous employers. In two recent cases, exploited students took action and eventually won the cases against their employers and received compensation.
Ever since then, I have learned something — Never Try, Never Know. Always stand up for your rights as no one else will. If no actions are taken, there will be no results. Just take the above cases as examples. I am very proud of the students.
This letter was written by a member of ASEAN Youth Organization
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IOM X is the International Organization for Migration's innovative campaign to encourage safe migration and public action to stop exploitation and human trafficking. The campaign is produced in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).