Friday, July 10, 2009

Australia – a safe destination

As a very early international student from India nearly 15 years ago, being a part of the Australian work force & the friendly society for many years and a frequent visitor to Australia, I feel I have the legitimate right to make my views heard to people as Australia is one of the best and safe career destinations in the world.

It is unfortunate that Australia is in the Indian media for the last 5 weeks for all the wrong reasons. As we all know that this is because of the string of attacks on the Indian students. These attacks mostly happened in the night mainly when the victims travel alone and use the public transport system or expose themselves to a wrong place at a wrong time. If it is an attack on any individual for the valuables they carry, it is a pure law and order issue and if that happens by targeting a specific ethnic community it will become a racial attacks. But in this case both formulae went wrong, if we go through the statistics it looks like racial attacks but it is not in real, it is pure opportunistic crime. But unfortunately in most of such attacks Indian students were victims. As this was breaking so many heads to know the answer , i am not an exemption too , the following is my way of answering the question.

we accept that every Indian city has a troublesome suburb and mainly we avoid going there at the late hours. This kind of attack on Indian students is not new in Australia and when I traveled there and spoke with number of Indian students I heard many such incidents for the last 8 months., . In my last visit I was staying with my friend in one of the western suburbs of Melbourne and I was quite surprised when he advised me to take care of myself while traveling in the night. This was the city 10 years ago where I use to move around with great liberty and safety. I am the person who keeps Melbourne as my second home. It is a bad news for me to expose to such incidents. If a city was so friendly for living to Indian students 5 years ago then what happened now? Who is responsible for this? It is a disaster for Australia’s campaign of “Destination 2010”, always a disaster never happens with just one incident but a chain of events. In the last 5 - 6 years, if we look that in depth we could see the quality of the students from India has come down drastically and I feel that is the main reason for this debacle. It is a collective failure of all parties involved.

They are

  • Australian education providers
  • Australian immigration authorities
  • The Indian students
  • The Victorian police
  • The media in both countries

It is my personal liberty and freedom to share my views to you all:

Australian education providers
Australia makes 15 billion dollars revenue every year through education export Which is the second largest income of the nation. Australia has a good regulation in place for the education providers (RTO – Registered Training Organization) but the enforcement of this law is always a big challenge and it has gone worse after mushrooming of the PRIVATE colleges offering courses based on permanent residency. These colleges recruit students from India with no proper entry requirements like previous experience or relevant education. In many cases the students pickup courses which is not relevant to their previous studies or experience or family connections but merely using it to secure the permanent residency. These colleges never bother about the quality of education and the guidance they need to give to the students. If you look at the victims, they are all mainly from one of these private institutions with no proper guidance on dos and don’ts. Often Australian authorities conduct raids in these institutions and take tough actions but they will close and open in another name in the next Street. So these private colleges are one of the main reasons to bring the non-competent students from India who are left in the street with no focus or purpose in mind.

Australian immigration authorities

The Australian immigration authorities will check only the financial capacity of the students, but they need to understand that, in India rich kids are not necessarily be the good students. There are private colleges ready to give admission to any body who is willing to pay the tuition fee and take up the course. And if they pass that stage and if they have money, no one can stop them to get the visa to Australia. So it is clear that we are not talking about quality students here. Since I have been involved in the international students’ welfare for the last 10 years, the student numbers went up between the years 1998-2000 and 2002-2005. The quality students studying at the good universities never had time to expose themselves to such incidents. So the approach of the Australian immigration authorities towards the Indian students has to change in a big way to make sure that every student has a purpose of study and they need to verify their part for the students to take up the specific program before they issue the visa at the Indian post. It is very important for Australia to keep itself as one of the preferred education destination among the Indian students in the long run. I can show number of students who scored 85% at the engineering degree and wanted to take up the masters program, but their parents may not have sufficient finance on their own to demonstrate. I am sure if these students had given a chance through external sponsorships( which the current Australian immigeration rule won’t permit), they won’t hang out on late night parties and pick up quarrel with the locals but will make a real value addition for the qualified Australian workforce. So what is the advantage the quality students get in the Australian Visa regulation? It is a very important question that their immigeration policy makers need to address in the coming months. It is not like the VET sector students are bad and the graduate students are focused. It is only good and bad students. on other words students with focus or without doesn't matter what level they study . I have seen number of students who did their certificate program in Australia came out with flying colours.

In the last 10 years i closely watch the immigration policy of Australia and it is mainly working hard to get the right students to Australia, though their objective is right they seems to be not able to get the right formula in place to achieve that outcome. They need to get the ground feedback from their foreign posts and some accreted bodies like the AAERI and number of stake holders of this activity to pool their ideas to achieve the best results. after all the Indians know Indians better...

Indian students

Etiquette matters!

When we go to someone’s house we need to know the rule of the house and live accordingly. There are many don’ts that Indian students need to learn than the dos when they go abroad. Some of the western suburbs of Melbourne are known for some unwanted social elements for years; in the past, students keep themselves away from these suburbs. When a student has been well informed and prepared about the budget requirements for their living, they can very well find a good accommodation in the core residential area which is quite safe. But the raise in the house rentals in recent times forced the Indian students to go out of the city and mainly to these suburbs where they can find cheaper accommodations.

When I was a student 15 years ago I could get a house, credit card and a mobile phone in just 2 days, but now it has become a nightmare for students thanks to the Indian students in the last 10 years who spoiled the reputation in a big way through poor maintenance of leased property, default payments of credit cards and loans etc.. Many real estate companies hesitate to lease out the property to the Indian students,Here the quality of the student matters. Indian students are only the second largest student population in Australia, if these are racial attacks then why is it not on the Chinese and Korean students. a point to be considered seriously. If a theory has been told that Indian students are soft targets by carrying valuables, we need to investigate our theory that many Chinese students carry more valuables in Melbourne as I have seen many Asian students buy brand new sports cars when they land in Australia. So it is the not only the factor of carrying valuable but also behavioral issue of the Indian students is also equally responsible for this mess. I myself witnessed in many occasions that some Indian students misbehave in the public places mainly in the late night trains.

Number of times I found the Indian students work in cash-on-hand jobs and they are forced to carry the money with them all the time. They fear depositing that cash in to their bank account will put them in to immigration trouble. The Indian students should not believe on silly immigration myths but to know their rights and legal system in Australia .

The Victorian police

When I met number of Indian students in my last visit a few months back, I knew it was a ticking time bomb, Most of the Indian students were aware that there were some isolated mugging kind of attacks on Indian students. They were no complaining about the attacks though but they were very unhappy about the police not taking any action. Remember all these incidents happened mainly in three or four suburbs. And we are talking about only 50 or 100 individuals in these suburbs do these crimes and created a bad reputation for the rest of the Australians. I personally believe if the Victorian police would have taken the necessary steps on time to ensure the safety of the students; it would have been a different story. For a fact that many Indian students in Melbourne are not aware of any such incidents until their parents and relatives called them to enquire about their safety. That’s how isolated the incidents are in real. If you travel once to Melbourne and spend a few days time you will realize how safe and secure the city is! It is truly one of the best cities to live in the world and generally the Australians are very friendly in nature.


The media need to look at issues with a professional and ethical approach. We all know that the 24 hour Medias will make news if they don’t have one. All these extensive coverage of the Indian students attack happened in the private television channels when thousands of Tamils died in the war at next door in Srilanka. So it is clear that it is not the seriousness of the issue matters here but the sensitivity of the issue counts. We know there are 150000 Indian students in Australia and at least there are 300 000 viewers (parents) are concerned about their safety.This kind of viewership always tempt any private media. But the same private media has played a healthy crucial role in many occasions in the past to bring the facts to the light. So we expect that they should have greater responsibility to investigate thoroughly before touching any matters.

Let us accept the fact that through the unprecedented media publicity followed by the counter attacks by a few Indian students on Australians, there is a real danger that a abhorrence might grow within the Australian youths. Now it has the potential to turn into real racial attacks. That’s really dangerous as we need to keep in mind that there are more Indians live permanently and peacefully for many decades with good life style in Australia than the entire student numbers. At the time of the global economic melt down and the jobs are in scarce, the Indians in any part of the world have to take care of themselves mainly when they are in a suburb known for many unemployed locals. I was quite taken aback when I read an article a few years back named as “Diverted to Delhi” which claims how the Australian local jobs goes to India through outsourcing.


Australia has a very high ageing population and the local birth rate is dangerously low and on the other hand it will provide big opportunities for the international students to go to Australia to study and explore the country for their future career. It is one of the best places on earth to live and raise your family. No guns are made available for people so it is a safer place than many countries.

What students should keep in mind?

1. Make sure you always join a reputed and preferably a government funded or operated institutes and universities.
2. Budget your course properly and make necessary financial preparations before you apply for the visa.
3. Concentrate your studies and part-time work but not on hanging out with friends
4. make sure you attend the orientation conducted by the education providers which gives you in depth knowledge on Australian lifestyle, do’s and don’ts
5. Stay with the good people and stay in a residential suburb but not in warehouse locations
6. Follow the basic etiquette you need to practice in any cultured human civilisation.
7. In current economic conditions no place on earth is safe if you ask for trouble with 30 grams of gold jewellery, 2000 AUD cash in the wallet, and easy to cash convertible electronic gadgets. And on top of that you are alone at night. So stay out of trouble all the time. Avoid late night travels alone.
8. Keep all the emergency contact numbers in hand in case of emergency.
9. Know your rights as international students in Australia, in some cases students feared to make a police complaint thinking the police may investigate their part time work schedule. Police and immigration officials are different.
10. Parents should keep monitor your sons and daughters progress in studies constantly.

If you keep Australia as a destination for studies I strongly recommend you to pick up the phone and talk to any of your reference in Australia to know about the ground reality. Then you will realize the fear to go to Australia based on the recent media reports is as good as considering to completely giving up eating in general fear of food poisoning risks….. sounds silly? yes, i agree too ..

Australia has all the right to say by putting its face straight that it is truly a multicultural and racism free country overall. One final request to the Australian politicians and officials - they should stop giving silly statements comparing attack on Australians in India as counter measure, for a concerned parent they are least bothered about any number justification, for them their kids safety and life is precious then anything else.

Hope the dust will settle down in few weeks time, but the damage done to the brand “Australia” is extensive and a long road of recovery is ahead. But a great country like Australia will bounce back with no time …. You can’t find a better place on earth than Australia which has people from 240 countries, who speaks 120 languages and follow 80 religions and faiths living harmoniously for decades

It will be Australia fair all the way…..