Protection needed for Australia’s Workforce of the future

Allegations of racial vilification against Indian students continue to plague Australia. In my view it is likely that there is racist behaviour against Indian students occurring in many countries, including Australia. But it is hardly indemic and is not necessarily focused on Indian students alone. No person deserves to be vilified on the basis of Race, Sex, or Medical condition. I had a taste of it last year working in Bangkok (the location of iHR Asia’s Head Office). My secretary was courteously ushering me into a taxi that was to take me to the airport. As I fumbled with my luggage an impatient woman stuck behind the taxi screamed from her beautiful black Mercedes at my secretary in Thai ‘Hurry up you Farang (foreign) f*****g whore.’ My secretary (who is Thai and was dressed in her business suit) was shocked. So was I. In my view Thailand has a tremendously accepting and welcoming disposition for people from other lands. There is, however, a minority element of that society who don’t want foreigners threatening traditional life and sometimes that results in behaviour that could be perceived as racist. Same goes for Australia. But the behaviour is not widespread and the Australian culture continues to be one where there is a natural and deep commitment to ‘Fair Go Mate’.

The hysteria breaking out in India is understandable but misleading. Indians would be excused for believing it is dangerous to show their face in public in Melbourne. My Indian friends would disagree. In fact they are adament that living in Australia is both safe and the best thing they have ever done. No one will ever be able to say for sure whether or not a young Indian man walking through a park in west Footscray (inner eastern Melbourne) was bashed to death on the grounds of his nationality. But many of us suspect his nationality made him vulnerable.

But was it a direct or indirect result of his nationality? Was it because those who set upon him had a deep resentment for Indian people or was he the victim of being an international student who was not informed that walking through such a park in the middle of the night was dangerous, even in Melbourne. Is the problem with Indian students about racial hatred or simply their lifestyles? Young students trying to make the best of their lives. Working in part-time jobs late at night. Returning from student parties not knowing that there are areas that displaying over exuberance is dangerous for anyone. Not knowing that there are some places you just don’t walk. Are their challenges the same faced by any Australian, the difference being that they are simply uninformed?

Racism exists in every society and we should never agree to live with it. We must be determined to limit it. We must also acknowledge that it does occur and not pretend otherwise. Especially when there is an intense inflow of a new nationalities. However, we must also acknowledge that this problem has not been properly researched and if it has, no one has a copy of the paper!

There is, however, one thing I do know for sure. It is important for the Australian universities (whose business it is to attract and educate international students) to be totally serious about providing meaningful induction and life skills training for students. Important to warn students about the dangers of walking through parks in the early hours of the morning. Important to acknowledge that students need a lot of nurturing for at least their first 12 months studying in Australia. Important to act like the responsible hosts they should be. This is not an Australian government issue. This is a university issue that has become an Australian government issue. In all the media coverage recently I have heard little about the responsibilities these institutions should have for ensuring the welfare of these many young people. Institutions are happy to take the money (some of it extortionate) so ‘for Australia’s sake’ let’s protect the students. And incidently, they are our workforce of the future.

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