With the recent attacks on Indians threatening to impact the flow of students into Australia this year, and in turn affect foreign revenue, a high-level delegation from down under is on a nation-wide tour to instill confidence among Indian students and parents.
Reports have suggested that a large number of students aspiring to go to Australia cancelled their plans in the wake of the recent attacks. The process of application for the January-February session starts in July. In the last 10 years the country has become a hub for Indian students.
“This year we expect a fall in the number of students owing to financial crisis and H1N1 (swine flu). The recent attacks can also contribute to the downturn,” delegation leader Colin Walters, CEO of Australian Education International, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations under the Australian government, admitted.
Even as he explained the measures being taken up --setting up of a hotline, sensitisation of students about cultural aspects, community vigilance and stepping up of police patrol — Walters maintained that the attacks had been blown out of proportion. “There are certain issues and lessons to be learnt. Sometimes the attacks could have been racial but that does not mean our country is racist,” Walters said, adding that racism existed in every country.
The state is contemplating legislation that will make racial offences liable for harsher punishments, according to Paul Evans, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Victoria. The state’s capital Melbourne has a high concentration of Indian students and also saw many attacks.
Professor Arun Sharma, deputy vice chancellor of Queensland University of Technology, said, “(Unlike the perception), many Indian students still feel safe here. What concerns us is that the measures we are adopting to stop such attacks are not conveyed properly.”
The delegation met Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to explain the measures initiated by authorities there to avoid/reduce such attacks.