RLC in the Media: New app at Macquarie University helps international students solve legal issues

Macquarie is the first university in the country to sign up for the new My Legal Mate app, a digital tool designed to help international students navigate legal problems.

Jill Rowbotham reports for The Australian

Losing his accommodation last year brought home to Uktarsh Guatam just how vulnerable international students are when they don’t understand their legal rights.

“I was lucky enough to have really good mates who acted as pillars of strength and sorted me out, but unfortunately this is not how the story ends for many international students here,” the final-year Macquarie University business student said.

Mr Guatam then joined Macquarie’s student representative council to advocate for Macquarie’s 8600 international students. One of his earliest suggestions was for some kind of legal tool that might help.

So he was gratified when Macquarie became the first university in the country to sign up for the My Legal Mate app created for the Redfern Legal Centre by technology provider Practera, with $100, 000 from the NSW government, City of Sydney and Fair Work Ombudsman.

The centre, which has been running a service for international students in NSW since 2011, had been working on the idea as a way to cope with demand – it offers 700 legal advice appointments to international students across NSW each year.

About 40 per cent of international students encounter legal issues in Australia, according to research commissioned by the centre in 2012. CEO Joanna Schulman said there is no reason to think things have improved since the study was conducted.

“We started our service in response to the large number of international students who were presenting to our tenancy and employment law practices facing significant legal issues,” Ms Schulman said.

“The app is really meant to be a form of early intervention to stop legal issues arising for international students, but also giving them an easy place to go for legal information.”

Information on the app is presented in seven languages via a series of drop-down menus linked to short videos. It covers four important areas of difficulty: education, employment, tenancy and sexual assault.

Read the full article here (The Australian, 27 November 2019)