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Australia: joint efforts against attacks on foreign students

The recent violent attacks against dozens of Indian students enrolled at Australian higher education and vocational training institutions (especially in Melbourne, but also in Sydney and Brisbane) and the resulting mass student protests, outside the Parliament House in Melbourne, have created quite a stir in the international media and have raised the concern of Australian and Indian governments, alike.

The absence of an official explanation for the attacks does not make the situation in Australia less stringent. Consequently, Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Education Minister – Julia Gillard, together with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have proposed (among other things) to organise a ‘roundtable’ discussion, as an immediate solution. This setting should facilitate for international student representatives to share their education-related experiences with representatives of the Australian education and training sectors. The outcomes of the roundtable should inform discussions among State and Territory education ministers, gathered at the inaugural meeting of the Ministerial Council on Tertiary Education later this year.

In parallel, and animated by the same cause, Universities Australia (UA) have adopted a ten-point action plan for increased cooperation between education providers, state authorities, the Australian government, foreign governments and diplomatic representatives, to ensure student safety and general well-being. UA’s action plan calls for nation-wide cooperation, demanding, among other things, that universities, the police, the federal and state governments and even diplomatic missions work together to enhance on-campus, as well as, off-campus security.   

Not only the security and the well-being of foreign students are at stake. Since the incoming international students bring Australia a total of AUD 15.5 billion (approximately USD 12.6 billion) a year, Australia’s reputation and privileged position on the global higher education market are also challenged.

Julia Gillard speech
Universities Australia