History of the Fund

Sir Edward Dunlop in his later years

The Sir Edward Dunlop International Students Emergency Fund (SEDISEF) was established in 1994 as a tribute to Sir Edward Dunlop.

BIOGRAPHY – Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop

Sir Edward Dunlop AC CMG OBE (1907 – 1993) was a doctor and Captain (and later Colonel) in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corp in World War 2, who is famous for his courage, kindness and compassionate deeds. Sir Edward is also highly regarded for his example of nurturing international goodwill.

Born in Wangaratta, Victoria, and raised in and around the Benalla region of Victoria, Ernest Edward Dunlop was a high achieving student and keen sportsman excelling in rugby and boxing. Widely known as “Weary” Dunlop, he graduated from the College of Pharmacy, Melbourne in 1927 in pharmacy and then from the University of Melbourne in 1934 with his medical degree (MBBS). He was soon after granted a fellowship by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

Having enlisted in World War 2, Captain Dunlop served in the Middle East and later in South East Asia, where he was later captured and held for some years as a Prisoner of War. As Commanding Officer and Surgeon, his tireless support and willingness to risk his life for his fellow prisoners of war (POWs) working on the construction of the infamous Thai-Burma railway is legendary.

After returning to Melbourne at the conclusion of war, Sir Edward married and raised a family and continued his professional life as a surgeon with a special interest in caring especially for the relief of his fellow war veterans and POWs. During this time, Sir Edward also devoted much of his time to the building of friendship and links between the peoples of Australia and Asia

Sir Edward was for over 30 years President of the Australian Asian Association of Victoria (AAA), President of the Melbourne Council for Overseas Students (MELCOS), a leading proponent of the Columbo Scheme and founder of the Boon Pong Exchange Scholarship between Australia and Thailand. Sir Edward enthusiastically encouraged the “Host Family Scheme” whereby Australian families provided friendship and a homely environment for generations of overseas students. Sir Edward was also an active supporter of the overseas student emergency relief funds that today have culminated into SEDISEF.

Naturally throughout these years, Sir Edward was friend, advisor and mentor to many hundreds of overseas students. His untiring community work made him an inspiration to many thousands of Australians at that time building the bridges of goodwill between Asia and Australia. Sir Edward is still today acknowledged as a role model in this capacity.

In 1976, Sir Edward was named as Australian of the Year. Notwithstanding his death in 1993, Sir Edward, continues to this day to inspire throughout the Australian population the ideals of international friendship, forgiveness, compassion and selfless devotion to his fellow citizen.

SEDISEF is proud to have had the support of this great Australian.


Origin of SEDISEF

The Sir Edward Dunlop International Students’ Emergency Fund (SEDISEF) has undergone a number of administrative, structural and name changes over the years and owes its existence to the foresight and contribution of a small number of outstanding citizens from Melbourne and the international student community of the early 1950′s.

Five decades later, SEDISEF continues to provide emergency financial aid to international students and remains a vital source of support to enable them to continue in their post-primary studies.

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The Early Days


The Overseas Students’ Co-ordinating Committee (OSCC) was formed in the early 1950′s and comprised representatives from relevant government departments, student bodies and voluntary community organisations.

Established under the auspices of Lady Maie Casey (wife of Lord Casey, Governor General of Australia), the OSCC performed a number of functions directed at meeting the welfare needs of overseas students in Victoria . Among these needs was the identified requirement for financial support to meet a variety of situations that would seriously affect a student’s well-being, both physically and academically. After two decades of outstanding work, the Committee ceased to exist by the end of 1974.


The OSCC established two funds that were designed for specific purposes: the Overseas Students Emergency Fund (OSEF); and the Overseas Students Trust Fund (OSTF). These two funds were managed and administered by appointed Trustees, who, in the main, were prominent Melbourne-based identities with strong links to the international community (particularly Asia).

The primary fund: OSTF was set up to provide support in two major ways:

•  To make “grants” available to overseas students in the final year of their studies, who, for genuine financial reasons, were unable to complete their course. Funds in this instance were NOT considered to be loans; and

•  To provide short-term relief to overseas students, at all levels, for living expenses and other urgent costs where the student was experiencing a genuine, short-term, financial crisis. Funds in this instance were to be regarded as interest free loans for three – four months.

Whilst modest in comparison to later Funds, these two earlier Funds continued to provide the basis of support for Victorian-based, international students from the 1950′s through to the early 1980′s with OSEF eventually ceasing in 1981, and OSTF seven years later, in 1988.

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The Seventies


Despite the many scientific and medical advancements of the time, the 1970′s generally represented a very unstable period of modern history with double-digit inflation, political instability, poorly conceived government programs and a fear of oil shortfalls. Consequently, investors around the globe panicked and a drastic, world-wide, stock market collapse soon followed. The effects of the crash were considerable, causing widespread financial ruin and hardship.

Overseas students studying in Australia at the time were not protected from these developments and many were seriously affected by the collapse of traditional asset bases. In response to this situation, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade requested the members of the Australian Asian Association (AAA) to consider establishing a new Fund that would provide ongoing, emergency assistance to overseas students in financial crisis and, at the same time, enable tax-free donations from individuals and the corporate sector.

Accordingly, the OSCC was replaced by the Overseas Students’ Assistance Fund (OSAF), and Sir Edward Dunlop, the President of the AAA at that time, became the original Settlor of the Deed of Trust which was signed on the 10 th May 1978 . Most of the trustees for the new OSAF were trustees on the other two earlier funds and simply continued the work they had already been doing for the previous two decades.

Officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade worked closely with the trustees of OSAF, in a collaborative effort to identify and support the growing number of overseas students suffering from urgent, short-term, financial difficulties. Ultimately, many dozens of overseas students received support from OSAF and this created a significant pressure on the administrative procedures of the Fund. The Honorary Treasurers and Secretaries, in particular, were kept very busy during this period and the Fund’s resources were becoming seriously depleted.

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The Eighties


In the late 1980′s the world experienced another global stock market crash that was particularly felt by countries in the Asian region. These same countries provided Australia with the bulk of its overseas student population with many ending up the victims of economic crisis and in desperate need of financial assistance.

To compound matters, the Australian Government’s imposition of full fees for overseas students was creating a growing anger and resentment amongst students with strong opposition developing across the nation’s universities and colleges. Student groups around the country began to demonstrate against the Government’s Full Fees policies and this led to the formation of the Overseas Students Council Against Full Fees (OSCAFF) in 1987.

OSCAFF established a fund that was designed to assist overseas students with the payment of the overseas student charge for subsidised fees and later began assisting students with a broader range of urgent financial problems. The council members of OSCAFF, aware of Sir Edward Dunlop’s strong support of overseas students, requested his involvement with the council and asked permission to use his name on their fund. Sir Edward happily agreed on both accounts and accordingly, OSCAFF formally established the Sir Edward Dunlop OSCAFF Needy Overseas Students Fund.

In the years to follow, OSCAFF grew to become the peak representative body of overseas students studying in Australia and the name change to the National Liaison Committee (NLC) more appropriately reflected its role and function for overseas students. The NLC now represents more than 300,000 overseas students studying in Australian universities and colleges and works closely with governments, educational institutions, businesses and the broader community.

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The Nineties


Despite the Asian political and economic crises in the late 90′s, the last decade of the millennium represented a period of greater stability in the world’s economies. Furthermore, most of the Australian universities and colleges had, by now, established their own loan funds, which made it possible for overseas students to receive financial support from their host institution.

These two factors combined to create less demand for emergency financial assistance and it was generally agreed that there was no longer a need for both OSAF and the Sir Edward Dunlop OSCAFF Needy Overseas Student Fund to continue. As a result the latter fund was soon closed and the remaining funds were transferred to OSAF.

In recognition of the merger of the two funds, and to honour the work of the now late, Sir Edward Dunlop, the OSAF trustees requested an alteration to the Trust Deed to amend the name of the fund to the Sir Edward Dunlop International Students’ Emergency Fund (SEDISEF). The official Trust Deed was altered, accordingly, on the 1 st March 1994 . It was agreed that the words “International Students” was the more popularly used phrase than “Overseas Students” and the term “Assistance” was replaced by “Emergency” to better reflect the nature of any support offered.

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The New Millennium

The Trustees of SEDISEF are proud that the generosity of those past generations of community minded citizens and the spirit and initiative of past international students themselves has left a legacy that enables ready assistance to be given to international students in needy circumstances.

Undoubtedly, the new century provides a very different set of circumstances to those of past years. Many of the international students now attending educational institutions will have no need to call upon services of SEDISEF but then there are now many more thousands of international students studying at Victorian educational institutions than there were in the early days of the Fund. If only a small proportion of the many thousands of international students experience circumstances of need then there will still be a substantial demand for the assistance that SEDISEF can provide.

SEDISEF’s challenge in recent years has been that its financial base has not kept pace with the inflationary pressures of modern society. This has meant that there may be many deserving situations where SEDISEF is unable to make a sufficiently large loan to make the difference for many deserving individuals to remain in Australia to complete their studies before returning to their home country. In other circumstances, some international students remained burdened by financial stress and by the heavy workloads required to maintain their minimal living conditions. Such circumstances can result in them being unable to focus sufficiently on their studies thereby losing out on their opportunity to excel. For some other students, these difficult circumstances lead to illness and despair. Whilst SEDISEF’s financial base may not be such that it can help all, there are still many students where the availability of SEDISEF’s loan funds can make all the difference. Naturally, any future donations will allow SEDISEF to do more.

Fortunately over time, a restructuring of responsibility in the education sector has meant that financial institutions have vigorously taken on the responsibility for providing support services, counselling and financial aid to thousands of international students. There are situations however where over-demand and funding cuts have meant that some educational institutions have in recent times needed to refer students in need to SEDISEF for emergency funding support.

Recently, SEDISEF has been the recipient of the remaining funds from the operations of MELCOS. The Melbourne Council for Overseas Students (MELCOS) had for two decades provided hospitality, accommodation and general support for many thousands of students studying in Melbourne and beyond. Through its then extensive network of host families, MELCOS was able to offer accommodation with local families and occasional hospitality with host families and community groups around Melbourne and in regional Victoria through the support of many enthusiastic service organisations. Other support services included airport reception, orientation information days, living in Melbourne survival handbooks and the International Families Group. As educational institutions over time have taken on many of these roles, the role for MELCOS has gradually phased out but SEDISEF is pleased that the funds that remained with MELCOS will still be able to provide support to international students in the years ahead.

Similarly, the Australian Asian Association of Victoria (AAA) has, through its more than 50 years, provided assistance through hospitality and friendship support to many international students over a very long period and still continues to do so. Some years ago, AAA established the Australian Asian Association Relief Trust Fund which helped numerous recipients in desperate need. With the development in recent years of specific funding sources to support those that the Relief Fund would otherwise previously have assisted, AAA has felt that the remaining monies in the Relief Fund can be redirected to SEDISEF.

Whilst in financial terms the funds made available from both these organisations are relatively modest, the role that Sir Edward Dunlop played in both MELCOS and AAA as President of both organisations for many years makes these contributions of special significance.

In recent years, SEDISEF has benefited from the support given by International House, Parkville. In particular, International House has been the venue for SEDISEF meetings. International House with the support of Rotary and others dedicated to international student welfare has provided for 50 years comfortable accommodation and facilities in a peaceful setting for generations of international students enabling them to feel at home in Melbourne during their period of study here.

In the years ahead, the Trustees are certain that there will always be opportunity for SEDISEF to provide the needed helping hand and support to deserving and desperate international students. However, SEDISEF may only be able to make a meaningful contribution with increased financial support from those interested in the welfare of international students.

SEDISEF continues to provide vital assistance to international students when normal avenues available to them have been exhausted and/or are not available.

May the spirit of support, shown by SEDISEF’s logo of the helping hands, by the devotion of Sir Edward Dunlop and by the many hundreds of thousands of Australians who in their different ways have over many decades now supported the overseas students programmes, continue to provide compassion, support, and opportunity for generations of international students to come!

Painting of Colonel Edward Dunlop
by Murray Griffin (1956)

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