Australia is proud of its multicultural heritage. Since 1945, Australia has welcomed over 6.6 million migrants to Australia, including more than 690,000 through refugee or humanitarian programmes. One of the key reasons that Australia attracted more than 500,000 students last year, drawn from 190 different countries around the world, is that they could study in a truly welcoming, multicultural society.
At this time, I would like to send a message of reassurance to the parents of Indian students who are currently studying in Australia, and also to the parents and students who at this time may be considering studying in Australia. Australia's leaders are as appalled as I am by the injuries that some Indian students in Australia have suffered recently. In the words of Australia's Prime Minister: "We are a multicultural nation and we respect and embrace diversity - diversity which has enriched our nation. That is why these recent acts of violence are all the more deplorable. They are equally unacceptable. And deserve to be met with the full force of the law."
I can assure you that the Australian Government is working actively with the Government of India, both here in India and in Australia, to resolve this situation. We will be taking a number of practical steps that will further improve the experience of all international students who choose to study in Australia. The large numbers of Indian students who have already chosen to study in Australia have made an invaluable contribution to strengthening the people-to-people linkages between our two countries.
In closing, I am pleased to note that the latest data for April 2009 shows that we have seen a 38 per cent increase in the number of Indian students choosing to study in Australia and this number will exceed 100,000 for the first time in 2009. Long may this strong interest continue.