Solider, aeroplane, chicken – swimming at the City Baths.  RMIT and Medibanks remarkable partnership encouraging water safety and water familiarisation for international students

Paula Soon1, Joy Mustapha1, Tushar Kondvilkar1

1RMIT University

RMIT University and their Health Partner Medibank, have developed a calendar of activities which aim to engage with and encourage International students to connect with their health, wellness and safety while they are in Australia.  Following two near drownings involving RMIT International students, it was decided that water safety awareness and swimming lessons would be a great addition to this calendar. Through the partnership with Medibank and collaboration with the city baths, RMIT was able to provide free swimming lessons for students. These were very popular and provided a much-appreciated opportunity for international students to build confidence and understanding of the water and swimming pool environment. It was also a chance for them to focus on their overall well-being and health at the same time.  This session will provide some insights into the health and wellness activities provided to international students as well as highlight the lessons learned from this initiative, direct from student participants.


Paula Soon is the Assistant Director of the Pathways and Operations at RMIT University and the manager for the Medibank OSHC partnership.  She has worked with together with Medibank over the past two years to develop a more holistic approach to the partnership and move away from OSHC simply being a policy on an offer letter.

Joy Mustapha is the Coordinator of International Student Services at RMIT University and works very closely with the Medibank team to operationalise activities and events.  Joy is a former international student and brings a unique perspective to the RMIT + Medibank partnership.

Tushar Kondvilkar (Age 25) studied a Masters of Analytics at RMIT University. He joined RMIT this year in July. Being a sportsperson, he proactively started going through RMIT’s sports website & came through Medibank Swimming Lessons. He was good at sports however swimming was always his flaw. He had fear of drowning down & hence never went in deep swimming pools. However Medibank gave him an opportunity to overcome this fear. He learnt freestyle, backstroke & breaststroke. After Medibank’s lessons, he can confidently say that I can swim in deep waters.

Susan Cullen from Medibank will be joining us but will not be presenting.

PRISMS Admission and Compliance Masterclass

Mr Ben Houston1

1Director, Regulation, Recognition and Tuition Protection, Quality Frameworks Branch, International Group, Department of Education and Training

This masterclass is for delegates who have an interest and role in Admissions and Compliance at their institution. This masterclass is an interactive session where participants will work through scenarios that the Help Desk has noted as receiving the most queries. Participants are encouraged to come to the session with laptops or tablets with access to PRISMS. Participants are also invited to submit scenarios and questions that they wish to be addressed. These queries may be sent to


Ben Houston was born in Canberra, studied a Bachelor of Science at the University of Canberra and has worked in the now Department of Education since 1990 spending most of that time in International Group developing and managing the systems that support the international student industry.  PRISMS, CRICOS website and TPS system are all managed and enhanced by his team. He has an extensive knowledge of the legislative frameworks underpinning the international student sector, the consumer protection arrangements for overseas students as well as experience with the AQF and qualification recognition frameworks. He is also responsible for the department of education agent performance data project using enrolment and visa data from PRISMS.

International students’ views on sexual health: A qualitative study at an Australian university

Anneka Parker

The number of international students at Australian universities is rapidly increasing, and they contribute significantly to Australia’s economy. However, concerns have been raised for their health and wellbeing, and there is limited research relating to international students and sexual health.  We conducted individual semi-structured in-depth interviews with 13 international students at an Australian university, aiming to understand the views and experiences of participants with regard to sexual health and wellbeing. These interviews were analysed thematically. We found that participants had different understandings of sexual consent, and there was misinformation about the impact of reporting sexual misconduct on their privacy and visa status. Data was collected on cultural and familial taboos and on views about sex before marriage and same-sex relationships. Participants expressed that they received large amounts of information about sexual health, but often lacked the skills to navigate that information and access relevant support. These data, along with participants’ ideas for future support and education, are important for understanding the complex experiences of international students at Australian universities, and should be considered when implementing future sexual health education and support programs.


Anneka is a fourth year undergraduate medical student at the University of New South Wales and has many international student friends and colleagues. She has spent the last year researching the experiences of international students with regard to their views and experiences with sexual health services. 

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.

Won’t you please, please help me?

Mr Greg Zaharis1, Ms Kris De Liseo1

1Uow College, Wollongong, Australia

“Won’t you please, please help me?”
John Lennon & Paul McCartney 1965

The University of Wollongong College delivers ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students), EAP (English for Academic Purposes) courses and University Pathway courses. We have a diverse range of student cohorts including domestic school leavers, mature age students and international students. We also offer Higher Education Diploma courses and Vocational Certificate and Diploma courses. Our Student Support model is centred on the student experience underpinned by the Student Support framework. Academic students, who do not meet progression requirements, are provided with a Personal Support Plan and assigned to a Course Progress Advisor. Additional services include Student Advisors, Teacher consultations, English Language Support, Peer Learning Program, and ‘Studiosity’, an online tutor service. Counselling Services are also provided by registered psychologists. Disability, Legal and Accommodation services are provided by the University of Wollongong. Collaboration with internal and external stakeholders is key to delivering successful student outcomes.


Greg Zaharis and Kris De Liseo are Student Advisors at UOW College. Greg has a background in ESL teaching in the secondary and tertiary sector and has been employed in student support services for 10 years. Kris also has a background in primary and tertiary education and has been a teacher for 15 years and more recently in student support services for 5 years.

The Important Reformation of Education Agency in Improving International Student Wellbeing

Ms Iris Tsien1

1JLL Overseas Education,

In 2017, over 700,000 international students enrolled in Australian institutions. Among this cohort, over 200,000 students are Chinese. Chinese students rely on their parents and education agents to make decisions on the programs they are studying in Australia, as they are accustomed to depending on others rather than think independently to decide their road of the future. Although there are numerous existing education agents in the industry, many of them are lack of knowledge, experience and professional training, which result in misleading advice for students and negative effects on student wellbeing, including depression and stress due to the huge difference between expectation and reality, the poor knowledge of the course and the language barriers. There are three main points that every education agency should ponder and refine: Firstly, what is the way to incorporate student wellbeing at the start of education counselling. Secondly, what professional knowledge that student counsellors should have to ensure students’ wellbeing. Thirdly, what possible resolutions can be offered by the education agency when confronting any factors that could negatively impact student wellbeing during their study. The improved student wellbeing will assist them to explore themselves and eventually make all students truly enjoy their study in Australia.


Ms Iris Tsien is the Managing Director of JJL Overseas Education (Australia). Over ten years, she devotes herself to improve international students’ wellbeing, safety, employment and help educational constitutions develop diversity in recruitment.

Peer advice, mentoring and providing support to students at La Trobe College Australia

Mrs Usha Rao1, Mr Jason Cormick

1La Trobe Melbourne, La Trobe University, Australia

This paper addresses the theme of connectivity, through describing the process of setting up and running peer mentor programs which utilise student-led strategies. The purpose of the presentation is to outline a number of connections established between students studying in various courses at La Trobe College as well as at La Trobe University. The delivery of peer support enhances student experience, for the givers as well as the receivers in these programs. There are several programs, led by students, for students, at La Trobe College Australia (LTCA). Through these programs current students as well as alumni provide peer to peer advice and guidance to LTCA students. The focus of some programs is academic support whereas others are for acculturation purposes as well as for social contact. These programs include international students having conversations with domestic students, high achieving alumni joining teachers in classrooms to assist with group discussions, domestic students assisting with enrolment and registration as well as leading campus tours for newly arrived international students. There are also groups of student leaders who offer help and advice to students who may face challenges at the beginning to settle in Melbourne or cope with their studies at LTCA. A detailed account will be presented by an academic member of LTCA staff on the design and delivery of the Peer Assisted Learning Program (PAL program) at LTCA. The successful, and not so successful, aspects of this program will be discussed. An attempt will be made to foresee the future at LTCA of peer assisted learning. The audience at this presentation would learn how to start and conduct such a program, and, perhaps, to avoid some of the pitfalls encountered at LTCA. Some evaluative measures will be discussed as well.


Usha Rao (MA, Monash; MEd, University of Melbourne; IDLTM, University of Queensland) is the Director, Student Services at La Trobe College Australia. She is the 2012 holder of English Australia’s John Gallagher award for her contribution to international education in Australia. Usha is a Fellow of Australian Institute of Management. She has been an ISANA member since 1993. She was the winner of a Member Bursary for ISANA National Conference Attendance in 2016.

Jason Cormick (Bachelor of Business, Victoria University; Post Grad Cert TESOL, and Master in Teaching – ongoing) is a teaching staff member at La Trobe College Australia. He is a teacher of English and Communication. He has an interest in learning and neuroplasticity. Jason also provides one on one and small group academic support to students from Foundation Studies and Diploma programs at LTCA.

Cognitive Processing Course: A Student-Faculty Collaborative Program for At-Risk Students

Dr Andrea Vaughans1

1American University of Antigua, Coolidge, Antigua ,

The Education Enhancement Department at the American University of Antigua (AUA), College of Medicine, has endeavored to support at-risk students in successfully completing the Basic Science component of medical education. It was evident that the transition from year one to year two contributed significantly to the attrition rate. Upon further investigation, two key factors evolved. Firstly, the year two content demanded more integration, within disciplines and across systems, than students had previously been exposed to. Secondly, students found it difficult to understand the language of the examinations. AUA accepts students from over forty countries. Students whose native language is not English seemed to especially struggle with the latter point. An initiative was undertaken to answer the question: How would the collaboration of structured learning strategies and student-led integrative reviews affect student performance? A fourteen-week, four-pillar program was created consisting of: Identification of individual learning techniques, Organization of knowledge, Time management, and Retrieval of knowledge. All students repeating semester three were mandated to participate. Each session was facilitated by faculty but lead by students. Students further received individualized advice from faculty in congruence with the Self-Regulated Learning Strategies. Exam scores from pre-course and post-course were obtained and compared. 100% of the students showed improvement, ranging from an overall increase in score of 6.27% to 23.80%. The average student improvement was 14%. Preliminary results suggest a positive correlation between the implementation of structured learning strategies paired with student-led reviews and student success, despite their native language.  A similar program is being implemented to assist students taking their final United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This presentation will illustrate the tools and strategies utilized to create this collaborative program. Participants can expect to gain ideas that may be replicable in various institutions.


Dr. Vaughans is a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines who received her medical degree from St. Georges University. As an SGU Global scholar, she was afforded the opportunity to train in Grenada, United Kingdom, and the United States. Upon graduating she worked at her alma mater then practiced General Medicine in Trinidad and Tobago. She is presently an Assistant Professor at the American University of Antigua with responsibilities including coordinating the Endocrine and Reproductive System, directing the Cognitive Processing Course Program as well as the Comprehensive Basic Science Examination / STEP 1 Prep Course Program. She has a passion for both clinical and academic medicine, hence, she works extensively with struggling students. In her spare time, she enjoys travelling and spending time with her family.

A diary study examining how international students juggle university study and part-time work commitments

Mr Jacky Zhang

1Southern Cross University, Bilinga, Australia

Australian universities have experienced a rapid growth in international student numbers since the late 1990s and there are currently more than 300,000 international students enrolled in Australian universities. Education to international students is now the country’s third largest export industry and its leading service export. With increasing tuition fees and living costs and a changing global financial environment, more and more international students are engaging in part-time work while on a student visa. There is a growing body of literature on work-study balance amongst university students, but there is a gap in the literature on the challenges international students face as they attempt to juggle work and study in Australia. This exploratory study employs a 7 day diary method to obtain data from international students at three Australian universities. The method involves two online questionnaires that students are asked to complete at the beginning and end of the study. Students are also required to complete an online daily survey for seven consecutive days leading up to an assignment due date. The aim of the study is to recruit around 200 international students,  identify the challenges they face and the strategies they employ to help manage their work and study and provide recommendations to universities on how best to support international students so they can achieve optimal academic success while engaged in part-time work.


Jacky is the International Student Support Manager at Southern Cross Univesity. He is completing his Psychology Honours research on Managing work-study balance for international students.

Preparing international students for life in Australia: The student perspective on what they need and what they are (not) getting?

John Wellard1

1Universities Australia, Deakin, Australia

Anecdotal reports suggest that the information international students receive before they leave their home country is, at times, not sufficient to prepare them for life in Australia. Reports of international student isolation and difficulties in integrating with campus and wider communities have been linked to students feeling under prepared for life in Australia. To explore this issue in more detail, Universities Australia conducted a whole of sector research project which examined the perspectives of international students on pre-departure information and to seek examples of best practice and challenges to providing useful and culturally appropriate pre-departure information. Approximately 90,000 first- and second-year international students were sent an online survey which asked students to provide their views about information they were provided about life in Australia before they arrived, the source and format of this information and whether it was useful.  Over 17,000 students provided a response to the survey, with the survey results being supplemented by targeted focus groups with international students and discussions with universities regarding best practices. This presentation will be the first opportunity for international educations stakeholders to obtain an in depth report on the outcomes of this study and to discusses the links between pre-departure information, student experience and success. It will also provide an opportunity to highlight work being done by the university sector regarding predeparture information and explore examples of best practice.


John has responsibility for developing and coordinating policy and services in support of the Australian university sector’s international engagement activities. Prior to this John was the Counsellor for the Australian National University at the Embassy of Australian Washington D.C. where he was responsible for managing relationships between the ANU, North American universities and other institutions, policy makers and opinion leaders. John has held senior administrative positions within the University sector and has served time as a policy advisor in the Australian Government and held academic positions in Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany.



ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education. For more information, please visit the ISANA website.

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