Australian government on Thursday condemned a spate of attacks on Indian students after the latest racial assault left a 25-year-old youth battling for life, vowing that "discrimination against or victimisation" of any foreigner pursuing education in Australia would not be tolerated.
In a statement in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Julia Gillard said she wanted to "send a message loud and clear that international students are very welcome in this nation."
"Australia will not tolerate discrimination against or victimisation of any of our international students," she said.
Her remarks came as Indian student Shravan Kumar, who was stabbed with a screwdriver by a group of teenagers in a weekend attack that also left three of his friends injured, was battling for life in a hospital here with doctors not very optimistic about chances of his recovery.
Earlier on Thursday, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said he was "appalled" by these attacks and that action is being taken.
"As a Foreign Minister, I am appalled by these attacks and I condemn them absolutely," he said in a statement, adding that Australia takes "very seriously" its reputation as a safe destination for Indian students.
"Indian students have faced problems in one particular location in Melbourne. Action is being taken. The police are giving particular focus to this issue. They have launched a police operation specifically to investigate allegations of attacks on students," Smith said.
A hotline, staffed by volunteers who are fluent in English and Hindi, has been established to provide support, information and advice to Indian students, Smith said.
Deputy Prime Minister Gillard also announced a new initiative in Parliament -- a round table of international student representatives. "The government will invite international student representatives to participate in a round table to discuss issues affecting their study experience such as accommodation, welfare and safety," she said.
"With over 430,000 international students visiting Australia annually, it is important to me that their views and concerns are heard and addressed by government," Gillard said.
The Education Services for Overseas Students Act of 2000, which defines the standards expected for all education providers engaging in international education and establishes best practices for the management of international students, would be further reviewed, the Deputy Prime Minister said.
The act would be further reviewed to "make sure the framework for regulation of overseas education meets world's best standards," she said.
Gillard also highlighted the contribution of international students to Australia's multi-cultural society. "International students enrich our society," she said.
"The relationships formed by students support long-lasting diplomatic, research and business links," she said, adding that "international students build on Australia's long multi-cultural history that has created a friendly, tolerant and secular country."