Know Your Rights – Free Legal Services for International Students

Written by The Bug

legal servicePhoto credits: Krystal Ly

International student is the group that from cultural and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds who is often discriminated against due to language barriers and is unfamiliar with the operation of the Australian legal system. The common issues are that but not limited to being paid under the minimum wages or no entitlement such as superannuation, living in overcrowding or dilapidated apartment.

International students who are in the vulnerable situations can seek free and confidential legal assistance from the following government institutions and community legal centre:

(*) The Fair Work Ombudsman is active in industries known to employ significant numbers of overseas workers – including hospitality, horticulture, cleaning and trolley collecting.
In recognition of the fact that overseas workers can be particularly vulnerable, and require specialised assistance, the Fair Work Ombudsman has established an Overseas Workers’ Team that provides assistance to:

  • Workers in Australia on temporary visas that have work rights
  • Newly-arrived migrants who may not be aware of Australia’s employment and workplace laws, and
  • Newly-arrived migrants who, through their visa conditions, have committed to remain with their sponsoring employer for a period of time.

Checklist for minimum payment and other employee entitlements is available on or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance if any worker is concerned they have been underpaid or treated unfairly at work. A free interpreter service for those from non-English speaking backgrounds is available by calling 13 14 50 and information about workplace laws is translated into 27 different languages at

(*) Fair Trading is a division of the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (DFSI) whose role is to make doing business in NSW simple, accessible and fair for employees, consumers and industry while providing best value for government. The most common issues brought by international students to NSW Fair Trading include: shopping, refunds, renting, cars, buying and selling property, home building, product safety and scams.

Anyone who has an enquiry or complaint about consumer issues, regardless of the situation, is encouraged to contact NSW Fair Trading by lodging complaints online on Fair Trading has a range of strategies and information in place to assist students. Strategies will be dependent on the concerns identified in the complaint. Students with limited English can also access Fair Trading by contacting the interpreter services on 13 14 50.

The Overseas Student Ombudsman resolves the complaints of alumnus, current or intending international students who have problems with their education providers in Australia include private schools, colleges and universities. Any overseas student is concerned their provider has not complied with the rules or treated them reasonably can contact Overseas Student Ombudsman.
International students can make complaints about:

  • refusing admission to a course
  • course fees and refunds
  • course or provider transfers
  • course progress or attendance
  • cancellation of enrolment
  • accommodation or work arranged by your provider
  • incorrect advice given by an education agent.

Students can lodge the complaints online on or call them via 1300 362 072. Free interpreting service is available by calling 13 14 50.

Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are the non profit, community based and independently operating organizations that provides free legal services to the public, particularly to the people who are in the vulnerable situations. The clients of CLCs are often the residents who have financial, social or cultural disadvantages. Students can get general legal assistance from their local Community Legal Centre where they study, work or live. A list of Community Legal Centres is available on where students can search for their nearest CLCs.

(*) Information is fully or partly provided by the spokesperson.
I would like to thank you for the support of the solicitor Mr Ngai, spokesperson of Fair Work Ombudsman, Fair Trading Ombudsman and NACLC to complete this article.
This article is not subject to advertise for any institution but a hint for international students to know where they can get help when they are in legal disputes.

by Krystal Ly


Leave a Reply