Australia prides itself as a safe travel destination, however, the latest series of robberies and physical attacks targeting international students in Melbourne is alarming. Moreover, the Australian media believes that international students are treated as “cash cows”, raising serious concerns about the safety and wellbeing of foreign students in Australia.
International education is a lucrative industry in Australia, with more than 500,000 international students contributing nearly A$32 billion into Australia’s economy. International education was also the third-largest export earner for the country, according to a statement by Universities Australia’s Deputy Chief Executive Anne-Marie Lansdown, released last year.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said the government was working in collaboration with education providers to “ensure Australia is a safe and welcoming country for international students”.
Several safety policies and frameworks were employed in the country, including the 2018 National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students which requires education providers to give foreign students information in relation to on-campus safety. It also entails that varsities should employ staff and other support mechanisms to help students in matters pertaining to health or counselling, with immediate actions against critical incidents such as cases of violence, aggression, physical or sexual assault.
Majority of Australian universities have good safety measures employed at their respective campuses such as CCTV camera coverage, emergency phone points and active security services patrolling. However, a major challenge for universities lies in protecting international students travelling to and from the university and also in their local communities.
University students were often victimised on public transports. According to a Melbourne-based study, nearly 80 percent of surveyed female students said they ‘had been victims of comments, advances, groping, or being followed on public transport” in the last three years. More than half of the surveyed men reported that they were mistreated in public transports. Another study found international students were more likely to report safety threats on racial, religious or cultural grounds than domestic students
Different Australian universities are also taking a lead to handle the matter at hand. Griffith University offers self-defense classes to their students and staff so that they can protect themselves and can develop strategies to avoid personal harm or injury. Several universities have MATES (Mentoring and Transition Equals Success) or equivalent mentoring program for new students to connect them with already enrolled students and learn about university life in Australia. This network can also be used to create awareness about international student safety.