Postgraduate students rallied at the State Library on March 14 to protest the lack of public transport concession fees.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations Incorporation (CAPA) joined forces with the Graduate Student Association (GSA) to push the “Fares Fair” campaign and to call on Premier Daniel Andrews to grant Victorian postgraduate students public transport concessions.
The rally saw speeches made by local, national and international students, as well as speakers from the City of Melbourne and the Australian Greens party.
The Fares Fair policy paper states there has been a significant growth in full-time enrolments in Victorian universities and the number of enrolments by domestic students has more than doubled.
However, Victoria is the only state in Australia that does not offer concessions to postgraduate students.
Smriti Ghimire is an international student from Nepal and is currently undertaking a PhD in engineering.
Due to her intensive study schedule, Ms Ghimire makes a one-hour commute to university every day, does not receive semester breaks and is unable to find full-time work.
Ms Ghimire says she pays up to $1500 in public transport fees per year.
Greens MLC for Eastern Metropolitan, Samantha Dunn also attended the rally to continue her party’s support for the Fares Fair campaign.
Ms Dunn said that both she and her colleague Sue Pennicuik had raised the issue of concessions for postgraduates in Victorian Parliament and had been very disappointed in the response from the Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan.
“She thinks it’s quite reasonable that concessions should only be extended to those on healthcare concessions. We think that’s not acceptable,” she said.
Swathi Shiva is an international student from India and also the south east branch manager of CAPA.
Ms Shiva told CBD News she believed post-graduate concessions were needed, especially for international students. She also said that in India, the average cost of public transport was around 70 – 80 rupees, or $1.40.
“We’re paying hundreds of dollars just to move around a city that already has a concept of concession in place, so I think it’s a question worth asking.”
The Fares Fair campaign has received statements of support from the City of Melbourne, the Public Transport Users Association and the Rail Tram and Bus Union.