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Oz study says overseas students fear for safety in Melbourne

world Updated: Feb 16, 2010 16:00 IST

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A majority of overseas students, including Indians, in Melbourne often fear for their safety because of risky jobs, poor transport options and lack of safe affordable housing, with many of them also attaching racial or religious element to the perceived threats, says a new study.

Of the 515 international students surveyed by the Victorian University, 403 reported perceived threats to their safety and half of them felt the threats were motivated by racial, religious or cultural factors.

The study found that a complex range of factors contributed to the safety threats, including lack of access to safe affordable houses, high-risk employment and poor transport options. It also found offenders were often identified as groups of young alienated men.

'The Community Safety of International Students in Melbourne', a study conducted by the Victorian University following the increasing incidents of violence against international students, was commissioned between June and November last year and included an online survey of 1013 students, 515 of whom were international.

The study also included interviews with key stakeholders, such as Victoria Police.

The study has come out with a number of recommendations, including setting up an information hotline, better access to safer transport and better information for new international students.

Victorian Premier John Brumby said he had not seen the latest survey but two similar studies, released earlier this week, had been "overwhelmingly positive", according to AAP.

"Again I would say that the educational experience that students from overseas can get here in Australia is amongst the best anywhere in the world," Brumby said, adding the opening of an international student support centre two weeks ago was part of the government's commitment to assist foreign students.

"It's got five permanent staff, it's open 24/7 with a phone line, it's there to support students ... And if they are ever the victims of assault, or the victims of attack, or the victims of racial abuse they can obviously go to the police or they can get support through our international student support centre."

The survey found that 50 per cent or 201 students out of 403 international students who reported perceived threats to their safety believed these threats had a racial, religious or cultural dimension, compared with 17 per cent of domestic students.

Nearly half of all the international students surveyed, 49 per cent, believed international students were unsafe compared with 34 per cent domestic students and the odds of international students having this belief were 1.8 times greater than those of domestic students.