Contact Points: Enabling international students during critical incidents

Assoc. Professor Catherine Gomes1, Shanton Chang2, Manorani Guy3,Franklin Patrao1, Siying (Ashley) He2

1 RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

2University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia



International students are often overwhelmed by information on their safety, health and wellbeing when they arrive in Australia. In time, they are able to successfully familiarise themselves with the processes and procedures they require to live day to day by turning to a variety of resources (e.g. online social networks, friends, websites, teachers) to make daily decisions. When quick decisions need to be made in times of crisis (e.g. when personal safety, health and wellbeing are threatened), however, students may not have the specific information required to act accordingly. Emergency and health service providers thus face challenges communicating with international students who often do not feel a need for such information until it is too late. In order to understand what key messages emergency and health services would like international students to know, we conducted 2 focus groups with emergency and health service providers and then, 6 focus groups with international students to find out if they understood and would share the messages. We translated the messages into Chinese and conducted a focus group with Chinese International Students to ask if they understood the messages. This presentation – the result of a Victoria State Government International Student Welfare grant – highlights the 20 key critical incident messages that are crucial for international students, discusses the issues raised leading to the messages being refined for understandability and accessibility to international students, and explores ways in which these messages can be shared by international students amongst their peers, through social media or otherwise.


Catherine Gomes is Associate Professor in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University. Catherine is an ethnographer who researches the social, cultural and communication spaces of transient migrants, especially international students, their wellbeing and their digital engagement.

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