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Digital strategy and app design to support international students to adjust to a new way of life with Study Melbourne


The challenge

There are over 200,000 international students living in Victoria, with 35,000 in the City of Melbourne alone. While many students have positive, life-changing experiences and go on to be avid advocates for our city overseas, their lack of local network, life experience and cultural knowledge can make them vulnerable to isolation and even exploitation.

Impact opportunity

International education is Victoria’s largest services export, but more importantly, international students have become part of the fabric of life and culture in Melbourne. We began by asking how a digital tool could help international students in a way that has the most positive impact on their wellbeing.

The process

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Building on previous ethnographic research we had already conducted with Study Melbourne, we developed a co-design approach that involved international students at every step.

Through interviews, surveying and a co-design forum with Study Melbourne staff, social workers and international students, we learned a critical insight: what students do in the first few weeks of arrival in Victoria has an enormous effect on the rest of their time in the state. Their ability to orient themselves and connect with the right services early on reduced their vulnerability, and helped them be ready for the inevitable challenges of life in a new city.


The Unlock Melbourne app was launched for both Android and iOS in March 2018, to coincide with the beginning of the university calendar for 2018.


Co-design, research, and digital strategy to give people easy access to council services with City of Melbourne

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