Australian delegation in Punjab on reassurance mission


Chandigarh : A delegation of officials from Australia is visiting Punjab to meet parents and educational consultants and reassure them that Indian students in Australia, bulk of whom come from the state, are safe there.

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The delegation arrived here even as the number of enquiries for courses in Australian institutions went up by four times this year, members of the visiting delegation said.

The delegation met parents of students here and nearby areas to assure them that the Australian authorities were taking all necessary steps to ensure that their wards were safe. Among those families whom they met were the parents of two sisters studying in Australia.

Nearly 40,000 students from Punjab alone are studying in universities and educational institutions in Australia.

“We are here to explain our seriousness towards the recent attacks on Indian students. We held a meeting with the officials of Punjab government and parents and students of this region yesterday (Monday),” Colin Walters, leader of the delegation and the chief executive officer of Australian Education International (AEI), told media persons here Tuesday.

“We apprised them about the zero tolerance of Australia towards racism. There is no question of racism there as around 25 per cent of Australia population was born out of the country,” he said, adding it was found that very few attacks were motivated by racism and most of them were a result of late night robberies or property theft

The delegation is on a 10-day visit to India, from July 6-15, is visiting eight cities — Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore.

Over 50 Indian students have been injured in attacks in Australian cities, most of them being in and around Melbourne, in the last few months.

About the impact of these attacks on the influx of Indian students, Walters said: “We have not experienced any dip in the number of enquiries from India. In fact, this year it has increased four times.”

He said that ten years back, only 10,000 Indian students were enrolled in Australia but last year this figure rose to 100,000.

“Punjab is certainly an important place for us as 40 per cent of these students are from this region,” Walters said.

Australian authorities formulated an ‘International student strategy’ July 2, which Walters said would help to improve the international students’ experience through improved pre and post-arrival information and engagement with the ethnic and broader Australian community.

“We are also going to have a high-level round table meeting on Sep 15 and 16, involving international students,” he said

At the same time he admitted: “However, we cannot guarantee the safety of all the tourists and students studying in Australia. In fact, no country can do so. It is an unfortunate thing but we cannot eradicate crime completely from this earth.”

In the wake of recent incidents, Australian government is also going to review its ‘Education Services for Overseas Students’ Act’.

“We would review that how actually this Act addresses the needs and problems of international students. We had reviewed it three years back but during this period the number of international students coming to Australia has dramatically increased,” said Tulip Chaudhary, from the Australian department of education and employment.

She added, “We would start reviewing it by the end of July and it will continue till this year end.”