Australian Delegates Seek to Calm Indian Fears

With racist violence threatening to hijack Australia’s position as an education destination of choice for foreign students, an Australian delegation currently on tour of eight Indian cities on Monday underlined Canberra’s “zero tolerance policy for racism” and announced several steps including review of a legislation to quell rising safety concerns among international students.

Coming close on the heels of a string of attacks on Indian students, a nine-member Australian delegation is on a damage control tour of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Chandigarh and Hyderabad. Media houses say that the exercise is aimed at minimizing the impact of the negative publicity the attacks received in the Indian media.

“The Australian government has taken a very strong stand on these attacks and is committed to take all the necessary measures to ensure safety of the Indian students,” said Colin Walters, group manager, international group, Australian department of education and employment, he was speaking in New Delhi.

Clarifying stances on the issue he said: “We (Australia) have zero tolerance for racist attacks, any kind of offensive behaviour or racial vilification.”

As head of the delegation he also made public the steps introduced by the Australian government to ensure the safety of international students in his country.

According to him the Australian government’s steps include: formulating a new international students’ strategy, holding a global students round table and reviewing a legislation focused on overseas students.

“This legislation will provide all the information to the students and cover all the issues before they can decide to come here,” he contended.

“We very much welcome the presence of Indian students in Australia. We believe the majority of Indian students have a positive experience,” said Walters while commending the performance of the Indian students and their contribution to the cultural vibrancy in his country.

Speaking on the occasion, Paul Evans, assistant commissioner, Victoria Police, attempted to downplay the racist motivation behind the attacks and said: “There is some racism. The majority of these attacks on students have been due to opportunity (being in the wrong place at the wrong time).”

He informed that patrolling had been intensified in areas known to house Indian students and the police was trying to forge ties with the Indian community so that law enforcement authorities could act swiftly in case of an attack.

Some 5.5 million International students contribute nearly 15 billion Australian dollars to the country’s economy, nearly a lakh of Indian students pursue higher education in Australia, a substantial downturn in this number could only be expected as parents had a harrowing time and nail biting moments when a string of mugging and stabbing incidents targeted Indian students in Australia.

The attacks came in for strigent condemnnations in the Indian media and triggered protests across several cities, now seem set to bruise the Australian education industry and the equity it has enjoyed in the Indian markets, all this in the midst of the economic slowdown.

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