09 July 2009

Studying in Australia is safe says delegation

Australian government officials started a nine-day tour in India today to try to improve their higher-education industry's tarnished image and to shore up trade between the two nations, following a spate of violence against Indian students studying in Australia.

Studying in Australia

Studying in Australia is safe for international students, a delegation to India has said.

The nine-member delegation, headed by Colin Walters, a senior official with the Australian Department of Education, will travel across India to reassure worried parents and prospective students.

"Australia has a zero-tolerance view of attacks on students and racial discrimination of any sort," Mr Walters said.

He said that "race is usually not the issue."

The spate of attacks on Indians studying in Australia has sparked a furor in India, with some media reports labeling Australia a racist nation.

The issue is important for Australia's economy as foreigners now make up 25% of students, up from just under 10 per cent in 1997.

Studying in Australia is attractive to many people because of excellent higher educational services and courses, the cheaper cost of living, and the opportunity to stay in Australia after study and progress towards Australian citizenship.

Indian students represent about 18% of the 542,000 foreigners studying in Australia, second only to those from China, according to data from the Australian Council for Private Education and Training.

Many of the attacks have occurred in Melbourne, Victoria's capital.

"These attacks are based on opportunity, not race," said Paul Evans, assistant commissioner of the Victoria Police.

Indian students are more likely to be the targets of robbery than other international students because they take on "risky occupations," Mr Evans said, including driving taxis and working at petrol stations. "If I put myself in that situation, I myself might be at risk for assault."

Many of the offenders are young people with drug or alcohol problems and "often come from multicultural backgrounds themselves," Mr Evans said.

"Australia is a nonracist community as a whole," Mr. Evans said. "We don't have the numbers to show that, but we can assure you that Australia is a good place to study."

Victoria is boosting security by adding mounted and plainclothes police, and aggressively arresting "people who are drunk or acting suspiciously," Mr. Evans said.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with Australian visas and immigration. 

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