Speaking during a webinar co-hosted by Austrade and IEAA that reflected on the #InThisTogether campaign, panellists explained how stories are being shared, resources are being promoted and government, industry and community partners have been brought together.

“It’s about collecting authentic stories about how people are showing up, working together and being stronger together”

“This initiative began when bushfires were our number one challenge and students from China who had returned home for Chinese New Year were unable to join us, so it started really organically,” noted Rebecca Hall of Austrade.

“We started with thinking about how students were feeling and what we wanted them to know from the government – and not just provide them with fact sheets and information but also show that we were open to engaging with them and we stand united to support international students in our care.

“It’s not about a big spend or slick marketing but collecting authentic stories about how people are showing up, working together and being stronger together,” she added.

These key themes remained relevant as the focus shifted to the impact of Covid-19, and as a result, the initiative grew in momentum.

This is seen in #InThisTogether – a series of student stories showcasing those on the frontline of the pandemic response, those playing an active role in the Australian community and those abroad pivoting and innovating.

Other initiatives that have come out of the initiative include ‘International Students Ask’, which allows students to ask questions and share concerns, and Study Australia, which seeks out and coordinates responses from subject matter experts, including a library of videos featuring information on the key themes raised by students.

A video strategy featuring students working on the frontline of Covid-19 and celebrities or well-known Australian’s showing that they cared was also established.

Austrade’s South Asia’s representative, Misha Mehrotra said they took a different approach to support Indian and south Asian students – given the majority (around 96%) were already in Australia and couldn’t return home to be with their families.

“There was a real sense of anxiety about their future, what they were going to do, or when they’d be able to travel back home, so our messaging was about reassuring them, making them feel welcome and like an integral part of the fabric of Australian society.”

We are now working on focussing on guidance, mental health, employability and career growth, Mehrotra continued.

“We want to demonstrate that Australia cares and that we’re here to provide as much support as possible.”

Study NSW is using the #InThisTogether initiative as a way to amplify the practical support that the government is providing, while the City of Melbourne has also utilised the initiative to help communicate its support to the 30,000 international students living in the municipality.

“Our messaging was about… making them feel like an integral part of the fabric of Australian society”

While #InThisTogether focuses on positive stories, its stakeholders acknowledge that there are still many challenges for international students and families, and these have come up during the process.

“A lot of hardship and moving stories have come from students, and this initiative has opened communication and allowed the students to bring their stories forward, said Cinta Grimaitre from Austrade.

“Having set up those partnership networks with the sector really allowed us to meet the needs of the student as best we possibly could.”

Hall added, “The key we’ve been able to play is aggregating services. Even if we can’t solve the problem, we can listen and can put this back into policy advocacy and information and evidence to the government.”

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