At 28 years of age, UC student Matthew had anticipated being self-sufficient with the ability to cope with the challenges presented in life, including covering basic living costs.
That is of course until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global crisis effectively shut down all avenues of securing an income to cover the costs of living while studying. “It was definitely not a position I thought that I would find myself in,” says Matthew.
Overnight, thousands of students were impacted. UC experienced a sudden increase in calls for help with COVID-19 impacting on so many students with casual jobs.
Matthew has been impacted on two fronts; “I had it all planned before starting at UC this year. In summer I had plenty of work lined up at a supermarket in Thredbo but that was wiped out by the bushfires, so I was already on the back-foot.”
Then no sooner had Matthew settled into student accommodation at Belconnen while looking to secure casual work, when the shut down of cafes, retail and hospitality, the main sources of student income, hit hard.
“At this time,” says Matthew, “I was getting frustrated by government red tape having applied for bushfire relief.”
Matthew was looking at a helpless situation with the prospect of not being able to pay the rent and with barely enough for food and the Internet, which was even more vital to secure with courses moving online.
“I was having a meeting with my course convenor and told her that I was losing faith in the system and was feeling pessimistic. She directed me to Student Welfare,” remembers Matthew, “Just chatting to them was a relief.”
“They made it clear they were going to help me and they did. My rent was due that day and they took care of it”.
The money to help Matthew came from UC’s Student Empowerment Fund, established through donations to provide one-off bursary payments to cover the short-term needs of students struggling with financial hardship.
“Being able to access the Empowerment Fund enabled me to get set up and it relieved a lot of stress. It allowed me to see into the future,” says Matthew, “I was finding it hard to get my semester started because my focus was primarily on having enough money to pay for rent and food.”
Matthew’s mother and father paid the bond for his accommodation but as one of four siblings he wasn’t keen to pursue his parents for more. “I had leaned on them enough, I needed to look elsewhere for assistance,” says Matthew.
That assistance has not only given him confidence and set him up for the remainder of his course, but it’s opened a window to the giving nature of the UC community.
“It made me feel a sense of community. There were people at Student Welfare who I had not met before but wanted me to succeed.”
Matthew’s is only one of a number of stories where UC students have been able to access the Empowerment Fund to cover the basics.
And it has been made possible through the generosity of people who want to ensure this generation of UC students is given every opportunity to succeed.
One hundred per cent of donations go directly to the fund and to students in need. Donations over $2 are tax deductible.
Find out more about the Student Empowerment Fund here.