Successive Aus govts’ ‘lethargic’ on student safety

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Melbourne: Successive Australian governments have been”lethargic”on the issue of safety of foreign students in the country and the broad scale impact of the international education industry on the community, an organisation promoting foreign education has said.
“There has been serious neglect by a series of Australian governments over the past ten years of calls by the international education sector for research into the broad scale impact of the international education industry on the Australian community,”International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) executive director Dennis Murray said.
“Governments have been lethargic when they should have been forward looking, vigilant and strategic,”he said.
The body also slammed the fragmented responsibility for international education across multiple government departments and agencies.
“Canberra’s continuing failure to take these matters seriously and to provide strategic coherence and funded workable support isn’t acceptable,”he said.
The last week’s Australian Institute of Criminology released a major study of crimes against international students between 2005 and 2009 which showed Indian students were significantly more prone to robberies.
Murray said such research should be”routine”but that”governments of all persuasions seem reluctant to act”.
“The Australian Government needs to put up funding for action based and fundamental research so that we can better understand the variety of issues impacting on international students, education institutions and the Australian community, Council of International Students Australia president Arfa Noor said.
“While a majority of the crimes committed against international students may not be racially motivated, these students continue to be a high risk group for crimes of opportunity,”Noor said.
She said students were made vulnerable by having to live in unsafe areas at a distance from campus in order to find affordable accommodation.
“A lot of these students choose to walk home from school or work in order to save money on public transport if they are travelling within zones,”she said.
In 2009 and early 2010, a large number of attacks were reported from Australia on Indian students, some of them racially motivated. It sparked an outrage in India and prompted the government to raise the issue with Canberra. Most of the incidents took place in Victoria province.
International students don’t receive transport concessions in NSW and Victoria.
“Despite the fact that international students are allowed to work 20 hours (a week) and make up a skilled and hard working workforce, there is a general reluctance from reputable employers to hire them.
This is the reason we find so many students underpaid and [in] late night jobs”, The National Union of Students said adding the study couldn’t discount racism as a motivator in the crimes against Indian students.
“Some have claimed that it is the nature of work undertaken by Indian international students that makes them more vulnerable to assault and robbery, but this appears to be little more than victim-blaming,”NUS president Jesse Marshall said.
Governments and universities must start acting in a more coherent and decisive manner to repair Australia’s reputation as a safe place to live and study for students of any background. (PTI)