If you experience something you think is unfair and you’re not sure what to do, you can raise your issue anonymously with the MGA team. We’re here to campaign for your graduate student rights!
PTV concession for graduate students
Victoria is the only state in Australia that does not give travel concession fares on public transport to full time graduate students.
The MGA supports graduate students in lobbying for systemic change which will have a direct positive impact on the community. We are working with graduate students at Monash and across the state to campaign for Victorian public transport concession fares for the graduate student cohort.
The campaign has been fought for many years by graduate students across Victoria. It has been recently taken up again by graduate students from the MGA’s Executive Committee. Click here to read more about the campaign and how you can get involved to make a difference!
PTV Campaign Explainer
Victoria is the only state in Australia that does not provide travel concession fares on public transport to full-time graduate students.
To be eligible for public transport travel concessions in other Australian states, the only requirements for graduate students (domestic and international) are that they are:
- enrolled full time; and
- attending on campus.
There is a misconception at a policy level within the Victorian Department of Transport that graduate students are financially secure and not in need of a concession.
In 2015, the Minister for Public Transport stated:
“…that a greater proportion of postgraduate students are working full time and may not require additional financial support. Postgraduate students with low incomes that meet the eligibility criteria for government support through Centrelink can receive a Low Income Health Care Card. This card entitles the postgraduate student to public transport concession fares.”
As of September 2021, nothing much has changed and the state government continues to state “…that financial assistance is directed to those most in need.”
This idea that the majority of graduate students are financially secure needs to be challenged. The MGA is advocating for all full-time on-campus graduate students to be eligible for concession fares, consistent with the rest of Australia.
Currently, graduate students must meet the eligibility criteria for government support through Centrelink to receive a Low Income Health Care Card and in turn, transport concessions.
International students are not eligible to apply for government concessions.
Victoria’s largest services export is international education. The state attracts international graduate students and then refuses to extend the travel concession when every other state supports this cohort by providing travel concessions.
International students are disadvantaged across a spectrum of categories. Their course fees are higher and they often work in casual environments. Many international students are also in debt to their family, who have often made sacrifices to send them overseas to study. International graduate students are a significant cohort in the higher education sector. To deny their financial struggle by excluding them from eligibility for travel concessions is neither supportive or fair.
Side note: Applying for a Health Care Card is also a barrier for full-time domestic students because it is a gruelling and complicated process.
The financial reality for many graduate students is not rosy.
- More than half the graduate cohort limits their attendance to events on and off campus, while more than one in three limit their attendance at academic events on campus, because of the cost of public transport.
- The current RTP (Research Training Program) stipend rate is below the poverty line and is not enough to cover basic living costs.
- The median income for graduate students has remained stagnant since 2006, despite inflation.
- Less than half of international and domestic graduate students feel in control of their finances.
Much work has already been done on this campaign. Here are some of the highlights:
- In 2017 the Fares Fair campaign was launched by the Council of Australian Postgraduate associations (CAPA) and the GraduateStudent Association (GSA-University of Melbourne). Click here to read about the original campaign.
- In 2018, the MGA (then MPA) held a massive two-day event-check out the highlights video here.
- Sam Hibbins, Greens member for Prahran, has raised this issue in Parliament. Here are the responses he received:
Having been successful in getting the stipend rate raised to $30,000, we believe this rate needs to increase further to allow HDRs to properly support themselves.
MGA research shows that many HDR students are struggling to cover the basic costs of living. Additionally, this current cohort has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many students losing their source of income and still feeling the financial effects in 2022.
We are lobbying for an increase in the HDR stipend to bring the payment into line with the minimum wage. Our report was recently tabled at GRC and we will soon be calling on you to help us successfully convince the University of the merits of our case.
Graduate students with children
After our success in having the first parenting room on Clayton campus re-established (it was removed during renovations and never replaced!), we are looking at other ways to support students who are also parents.
As well as ensuring all policies support graduate parents, we would like to see a small playground on each campus so there is somewhere child-friendly to take your kids while on campus. Our big vision is to convince the University to establish an occasional childcare centre on campus, so students can drop off their kids for an hour or two while they attend a tutorial or speak with their supervisor.
If IKEA can do it, why can’t Monash?
Some of our previous successes:
- The introduction of an extensive welfare scheme to provide support to graduate students in financial distress;
- The automatic provision of HDR scholarships to 3.5 years without requiring an application;
- Reinstatement of an 8.30am shuttle bus from Caulfield to Clayton during the out of semester timetable;
- Reinstatement of the 7:10am shuttle bus from Clayton to Peninsula during the semester;
- The development of a guide for graduate students identifying as queer;
- The inclusion of unpaid domestic violence leave in all graduate and undergraduate courses;
- The inclusion of paid domestic violence leave for all HDR scholarship recipients.
To read more about our lobbying efforts to put graduate Students’ Services and Amenities fees back in their own hands, please click on this link.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA)
CAPA represents the interests of Australia’s 320,000+ graduate students. CAPA’s member organisations include the MGA and 33 other relevant associations, as well as the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association (NATSIPA). As the national voice on graduate student issues, CAPA makes representations to the Federal Government, the Opposition party and higher education peak bodies. Click here to find out more about CAPA.
Got some feedback for us?
The MGA is working on a variety of issues on that affect graduate students at Monash. We endeavour to address any systemic issues by lobbying the University for change.
If you would like more information, or you are a Monash graduate student who would like to discuss a current issue with us, contact us here. Your feedback is valuable to us!