A new $450,000 package will support vulnerable people living in the ACT on temporary visas and international students who have lost their income due to the coronavirus pandemic.
ACT Multicultural Affairs and Tertiary Education Minister Chris Steel has announced a new partnership between the ACT government and the ACT Refugee, Asylum Seeker and Humanitarian (RASH) Coordination Committee, the Australian Red Cross and local universities.
As part of the new support package, the RASH Coordination committee will receive $140,000 to provide urgent support for asylum seekers in Canberra. The Australian Red Cross will receive $160,000 for its existing emergency support program assisting people on temporary visas, including temporary work visas and safe haven enterprise visas.
The Red Cross will also receive $150,000 to go towards assisting international students who are facing financial hardship because of COVID-19. The funding will be distributed through tertiary education institutions.
For international students like Greene Vu from Vietnam, the financial assistance is a welcome show of support from the territory.
"Even just a little support would be very good and ... it makes us believe in where we live," she said.
The 22-year-old software engineering student began her three-year course at the University of Canberra in August last year. She was employed at a hotel in events as a food and beverage attendant but hasn't been able to work for six weeks since lockdown measures came into force.
She's been able to use some savings, is planning to draw on her Australian superannuation account and her parents have sent her some money.
However, she says many other international students won't be able to receive any family support as the global downturn hasn't spared anyone, and travelling back home is difficult and risky.
"It's like this everywhere in the world," she said.
"I actually feel very lucky [that] I chose Canberra to study because our situation here compared with other places in Australia and other countries in the world is well-managed."
Mr Steel said the ACT government had been lobbying the federal government for people on temporary and student visas to be covered by the JobKeeper payment, but to no avail.
"The Australian government has refused, and as a result many Canberrans on temporary visas have now lost work and now have literally no income, and no support like other Canberrans have through JobSeeker," Mr Steel said.
"Canberra is a Welcoming City and refugee welcome zone and the ACT government is acting to support some of the most vulnerable people affected by this pandemic with emergency relief.
"We know that there is a group of Canberrans that is unable to go home, unable to work, and unable to benefit from Australian government assistance. The new emergency funding will help with the basics so that people on temporary visas can survive through this."
Kathy Ragless, the executive director of Companion House (which forms part of the RASH Coordination Committee) said the ACT had about 200 residents who are asylum seekers and 300 residents on temporary protection and safe haven enterprise visas.
"This funding will help us ensure these people get the help they need, including emergency accommodation, legal advice and access to health services," she said.