Adelaide Student Attack Points to Widespread Exploitation of International Students

1 March 2021

(content warning: violence)


A viral video showing two international students assaulted in Adelaide has sparked a greater need for a conversation on wage theft. 


The women were allegedly attacked after confronting their employer about being underpaid.


The video depicted an argument between a woman and a man before another man stepped into the frame and struck the woman. It is alleged that the perpetrator is a friend of the employer. 


The SA Police has arrested someone in connection with the event and released them on bail. 


The Working Women’s Centre SA is legally representing the women and released a statement that the two of them were paid $10 and $12 per hour for working at the store, whereas the minimum wage for casual employment of more than 5 months at restaurants is $25.51.


The Fun Tea store owner has maintained that “there are big misunderstandings published on media”. A notice printed on their door claims that the “alleged assault was not connected to a complaint about the employee’s pay or rates of pay”, although the video footage shows a woman arguing about her wages. 


Despite this claim, the attack has started a larger conversation about wage theft among international students. Students protested in front of the store on February 4, calling for a crackdown on exploitative workplace practices.


Instances of wage theft “can happen anytime, anywhere and to any student”, according to the National Union of Students (NUS), who organised the protest.


While the attack happened in Adelaide, the President and International Officer of NUS, Zoe Ranganathan and Varun Kale, said underpaying international students is a problem that exists throughout Australia. 


Wage theft amongst international students is rife throughout the country. These issues are probably even more prevalent in Melbourne due to the higher percentage of international students in Victoria proportionally.”


“There is no awareness of worker’s rights amongst young people. Schools and universities should focus on teaching arriving international students their rights rather than taking them on pub crawls and teaching them Aussie slang.”


The Fun Tea attack is only the latest example of a situation faced by many students. 


National surveys reported that international students are disproportionately vulnerable to wage exploitation and poor workplace conditions. Over a third of more than 5,000 surveyed international students in 2019 were paid less than the statutory minimum wage ($18 per hour).


International students also feel more vulnerable and reluctant towards reporting and receiving help, with some saying that they “didn’t think Australian law covered [them]”.


However, an Ombudsman spokesperson expressed the importance of reporting wage exploitation in workplaces so that the issue can be assessed or investigated.


 “All workers in Australia have the same rights, regardless of citizenship or visa status. We have an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs where visa holders can ask for our help without fear of their visa being cancelled.”


Workers with concerns can visit or call 13 13 94 for free advice about their rights and obligations. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.


[Image source: ABC News]

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