Coordinating Committees: from the 1950s to the 1990s – the origins of international student support and community engagement

Ms Anna Kent1

1Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Australia

The provision of international student support in 2019 is vastly different from what it was when international (overseas) students first appeared in large numbers on Australian campuses in the 1950s. At that time community organisations, businesses and the government cooperated to provide support to students in Australia, with less support being offered formally through universities and colleges. These Coordinating Committees survived for decades, into the 1990s. It could be argued that these Coordinating Committees facilitated a community engagement in international education that has been not continued as the number of students has multiplied.

Using archival and other primary source documents, this paper will look at the beginnings of the Australian Organisations’ Coordinating Committee for Overseas Students, and other similar organisations. It will analyse how the Committee’s changed over the decades of their existence, and what role they played in influencing government policies.

The paper will also investigate when and why these Committees ended, and what, if anything, has taken their place. The huge expansion of the international education sector, with more than half a million students now studying in Australia as international students, has impacted the quantity and quality of engagement with the Australian community for many of these students.

Finally, the paper will look at efforts to engage the community in the support of, and engagement with, international students in Australia in a more contemporary setting. This includes support provided by institutions, community and sporting organisations and state government and municipal councils.


Anna Kent is a PhD student at Deakin University in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, researching the history of Australian government education aid to the Pacific. Her research interests include international education, international development and the intersections between foreign policy, international education and international development.

Anna has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Master of Arts (Development Studies) from the University of Melbourne.  Anna’s thesis, completed in the Development Studies Department, focused on the role of Australian government scholarships in development, education and diplomacy. Anna was the inaugural convener of the International Education Association of Australia’s Scholarships and Fellowships Network and is a member of the Australian Policy and History Network.

Anna’s work has been published in various fora, including a chapter in a book International Scholarships: Pathways to Social Change (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), and on Australian Policy History Network and the Contemporary History Research Group blog.

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