The ongoing exploitation of international students in the City is a deeply concerning issue. Last week’s 7:30 Report exposed a network of over 60 apartments which are being used as illegal hostels for international students and backpackers. One property in Ultimo was said to hold 58 beds.
The City hosts 35 000 international students. They have been estimated to contribute as much as $1.6 billion to the City’s economy. The City is Australia’s premiere destination for international students.
Only last month we saw a fire break out in an illegal boarding house for international students on Burrows Road in Alexandra. Reports have surfaced that complaints had been made to Council about the existence of the boarding house prior to the fire. Worryingly it appears that these complaints were not logged or processed by the City. While I am thankful no one was hurt or killed it is clear that lives may be on the line when Council regulations are flouted. It is our responsibility to investigate these claims.
I would like to see Council step up its efforts to crack down on this exploitation. As it is impossible to monitor every single property Council relies on residents to approach the City with their concerns. We must ensure that these reports are taken seriously and followed up by our compliance staff.
The City has resolved to request that the NSW Government set up a joint taskforce with representatives from state and local government to develop a new licencing regime for student and tourist accommodation and increase enforcement powers for unsafe premises.
The City has also supported a proposal to provide funding to a research project entitled “An exploration of the wellbeing of international students in the City of Sydney.” The study will be undertaken by the Centre for Local Government at UTS and the Graduate School of Government at the University of Sydney. It will focus on issues such as safety, security, housing, discrimination and employment. It is important we invest in improving our relationship with these members of the international community and to further build enduring links between Sydney and the world.