Safety of International Students at VU

Students living in Melbourne

Student living in Melbourne

Victoria University has developed the following frequently asked questions site to inform students, parents, agents and staff about how the University is addressing and responding to key safety considerations for international students.

Frequently asked questions:

How is the Australian Government responding to the recent attacks on Indian students?

  • The Australian Government is appalled by the recent criminal acts against Indian students in Australia.  The Deputy Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Premier of Victoria have released statements condemning the recent incidents of crime.
  • Deputy Prime Minister stated before Parliament on Tuesday 26 May that the Australian Government will be convening a round table to discuss issues affecting international students.
  • The Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs and the Ministerial Council for Vocational and Technical Education recently welcomed a number of international students to listen directly to their views. Ministers also heard from representatives of Universities Australia and the Australian Council of Private Education and Training.  Ministers have agreed that there will be joint action by all governments in Australia to design and implement the announced Tertiary Education Standards and Quality Agency. All Ministers support the bringing forward of the review of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 to commence in 2009-2010.
  • On 17 June the Australian Senate agreed to a Senate inquiry into international education.  The inquiry is to report by 16 November 2009. Read more on the International Education Association Australia website.
  • Australian police are actively investigating the crimes and will be laying charges against those responsible for the attacks.
  • Australia will work closely with Indian students and the Indian Government to address issues around safety, making every effort to ensure that such acts do not occur again.
  • Victorian authorities have been established a hotline to assist Indian students with their concerns.  The hotline will be staffed by people fluent in Hindi and English.

How safe is Melbourne?

  • In the context of big cities, Melbourne is a safe city.
  • Melbourne is internationally recognised as a 'Safe Community' by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is one of only three capital cities worldwide to achieve such an honour.
  • Crime rates in Melbourne have decreased 25 per cent since 2000/2001 and are at their lowest levels in the past 15 years. 
  • The Victorian State Government is investing heavily in public transport infrastructure with establishment of 'transit cities' including A$40 million in refurbishment, building and well-lit precincts at Footscray Park Railway Station - which serves VU's two major Higher Education (HE) and TAFE campuses.
  • A Victorian State Government Task Force (2008) has supported government projects to increase the provision of affordable housing for students in Melbourne.

What is the University's view about the cause of these attacks? Is it racism, as claimed by some in the community?

  • The University believes that racism is no doubt an issue in some of these attacks, but there is no concrete evidence that this is overwhelmingly the case. We support further research to examine the motives.
  • Police evidence is that the majority of these attacks are 'opportunistic' rather than racially-based. Many international students work late night jobs and are forced to travel by public transport, making them vulnerable. That is why Victoria University (VU) has provided night-time shuttle bus services to and from our campuses to transport hubs.
  • In some instances groups responsible for the attacks have gone on to attack others who are of different cultural backgrounds on the same night, negating this claim.

What is Victoria University doing about safety issues for international students?

Police and student during a cricket match

Police and students cricket match

Over the past two years Victoria University has been working closely with international students and key community organisations, including the Victoria Police, to develop a safety program. The safety program for international students includes:

  • International pre-departure briefings
    In preparation for more international students arriving in Melbourne, Victoria University International (VUI) staff have conducted pre-departure briefings in India, China and Malaysia about how to better prepare for Life at VU.  Pre-departure briefings have also been held for China and Malaysia.
  • Active liaison with Victoria Police
    Leading Senior Constable Vic Robb from Victoria Police's Multicultural Unit regularly attended VU's Footscray Park campus, speaking one-on-one to international students at VU's Footscray Park campus about their experiences in Australia. 
  • Building relationships between international students, Victoria University and Victoria Police
    VU and officers from the Victoria Police hosted a cricket match at Footscray Park campus in an effort to build relationships with many international students, particularly those from the Indian Subcontinent. 
  • Safety Week events
    VU held Safety Week events during March on its four major campuses, including presentations from the Victoria Police, the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB), CONNEX and service areas of Victoria University. 
  • Secure shuttle transport for international students
    In an effort to reduce the number of students walking the streets, VU runs a night-time bus shuttle from Footscray Park campus stopping at Footscray Railway Station and the Maribyrnong Student Village; another service runs between the St Albans campus and St Albans Railway Station. 
  • University-appointed Safety Ambassadors
    In Semester 2, 2009 students from the Indian Subcontinent will receive instruction from police, lifesavers, fire officers and other authorities in safety issues covering a wide range of settings - from public transport and the streets, to the internet, the surf and the bush. Students will then be provided with materials and resources to share among fellow students, passing on their knowledge and expertise.

What multimedia resources can I access about student safety?

VU provides an extensive range of publications and videos to better prepare students for life in Melbourne including:

Booklets

Video

 

What level of support are authorities giving to Victoria University to address and improve the safety of international students?

Victoria Police officers attended the Life at VU DVD launch

Police at the Life at VU DVD launch

While developing a safety program over the past two years, VU has enjoyed a close working relationship with international students and Victoria Police.

  • VU is the first university to have in-country pre-departure workshops highlighting safety with representatives from the Victoria Police and the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB).
  • In response to a rise in street robberies, Victoria Police will be increasing the number of uniform police patrolling train stations and a number of trouble spots in the Sunshine and St Albans area.
  • Victoria Police will also repeat operations recently conducted in Melbourne's west to target a rise in crime and robberies. The most recent operations resulted in 75 undercover and uniform police flooding the streets of Sunshine and St Albans.
  • Media Release: Police to educate international students
  • Victoria Police were involved in the making of the 'Life at VU' DVD.   A generic version of the safety segment filmed with Victoria Police officers for the Life at VU DVD can be viewed online

Why did Victoria University conduct pre-departure workshops in India with police and fire officers?

  • Members of our International Student Support (ISS) team, along with representatives from the Victoria Police and the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB)  presented workshops across five major cities India in June to spread the safety message. Our recent pre-departure workshops in Malaysia and China attracted over 1000 students and parents.
  • VU believes that the most effective response is multi-pronged. Recent survey data from the 2008 Student Barometer Survey showed personal safety was the number two concern of Victoria University international students, behind teaching quality. At Victoria University we are endeavouring to inform all our international students not only about academic expectations but information about personal safety. The same survey, which had more than 1,000 responses from VU international students, confirmed that 75% reported a high level of satisfaction with their safety at VU campuses and in Melbourne in general. This level of student satisfaction was higher than in similar surveys of universities in the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand.

Who delivered the pre-departure briefings in India?

From 1 - 6 June 2009, VU's pre-departure briefings program took place in Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and New Delhi. The Victoria University team included::

  • Ms Samantha Thompson (Manager, International Student Support, VU International), who has developed the safety DVD, pre-departure booklets, Safety Awareness Week and Safety Ambassador program at VU.
  • Ms Lena Zuzic (Manager, International Admissions, VU International), who recently established and trained locally engaged VU staff in the VUI Ahmadabad admissions office and has been involved in several recruitment trips in India.
  • Leading Senior Constable Vic Robb (Victoria Police Multicultural Liaison Officer) and a member of the Victoria Police Multicultural Liaison Unit, his experiences includes:
    • community and international student liaison about safety issues
    • experienced with international policing/ peace-keeping assignments in Sudan
    • has attended the VUI office at Footscray Park campus to interact with students
    • participated in a cricket match at Footscray Park campus earlier this year between the Victoria Police and Victoria University international students
  • Station Officer John Hale from the MFB Education Unit has worked with Victoria University on Safety Week and Orientation Week.

What other measures are being undertaken by Victoria University to ensure the safety of international students?

VU have implemented a range of initiatives and activities that gives all international students the opportunity to meet people and receive information on how to reduce risk around them and find out about how to stay safe:

Safety Ambassadors

A new initiative for university-appointed Safety Ambassadors.The Safety Ambassador Program is a new initiative in the preliminary stages of development. Information is often best communicated to international students through their peers and sometimes, students are reluctant to contact people in authority for advice and support. The role of the Safety Ambassador will be to spread safety messages through talking with other students, sending messages by various means (email, sms), involvement in safety awareness campaigns and finally, a contact point for students who may find themselves as a victim of crime with the view of referring them to appropriate support. The Safety Ambassadors will do some training with Victoria Police, MFB and Life Saving Victoria. We plan to start recruiting and training our first group of Ambassadors early in semester 2.

How have authorities demonstrated their commitment to the measures implemented by Victoria University?

Victoria Police, the MFB and Universities Australia are very committed to improving the safety of international students. 

Victoria Police

Leading Senior Constable Vic Robb (Multicultural Liaison Officer) is based at the Victoria Police Multicultural Liaison Unit.  His experiences include:

  • community and international student liaison about safety issues
  • international policing/peace-keeping assignments in Sudan
  • participated in a cricket match between the Victoria Police and Victoria University international students at Footscray Park campus earlier this year

The community safety section of the Victoria Police website provides further informative safety tips and measures that you can take to ensure your safety.

MFB

  • Station Officer John Hale from the Education Unit and MFB Multicultural Liaison officers have worked with Victoria University on Safety Week and Orientation Week.

The community safety section of the MFB website also provides further informative safety tips and measures that you can take to ensure your safety.

Board of Universities Australia Action Plan

Universities Australia has adopted a ten point action plan for student safety from recommendations developed by the Deputy and Pro Vice-Chancellors (International) from Australian universities, as part of a meeting convened by Universities Australia in Canberra on June 4 and 5. The plan emphasises strong law enforcement plus necessary complementary actions and forms the basis for lobbying of Federal and State Governments. A copy of the Universities Australia media release can be viewed at http://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/content.asp?page=/news/media_releases/2009/uniaus_media_09_09.htm

How is Victoria University monitoring the safety of international students?

VU communicates on a regular basis to all its students to reinforce actions they can take to reduce risk to their personal safety.

What can I do right now about my personal safety?

Students already living in Melbourne have offered the following practical advice :

  • After 7 pm, always travel in the first compartment of the train.
  • When walking to work or home, leave your MP3 player off, as you can easily get distracted.
  • Always plan your trip on public transport to reduce risk of any unwanted incidents. Always carry an up to date train timetable on you.
  • Where possible keep your possessions close to you and not on view.
  • Stay alert and keep an eye out if someone is walking behind you.
  • Never walk and talk on the phone at the same time on a lonely road.
  • Make sure you have emergency number '000' on speed dial.
  • Never feel shy to seek help and shout if you feel you are in any kind of danger.
  • Take extra care when working on night shifts. Many students work late night, especially in convenience stores and restaurants.
  • Always take a road that is well lit and has some traffic, even if it's not shortest way home.
  • If you see or experience any attack, make sure you lodge a police complaint as most of these incidents never get reported.

General advice for students from Victoria Police and the Life at VU DVD:

  • Create a network of people
  • Get to know the local area
  • Familiarise yourself with the public transport system
  • Keep emergency numbers handy

Information for students from the Multicultural Liaison Officers based at Footscray Police Station:

  • If it is an emergency situation and you require police attendance call 000. Victoria Police, Fire and Ambulance are all contactable on the number 000. It is a free call from all public, mobile and landline phones.
  • Do not be afraid to call on police for help.
  • In non-emergency situations, such as just requiring advice, please call your local police station.
  • Police are a free service.

When using trains:

  • Always plan your trip on public transport to reduce risk of any unwanted incidents. Always carry an up to date train timetable on you.
  • Travel at the front of the train near the driver if you are alone or feel unsafe.
  • Be aware of the red coloured emergency button located near the exits on the train. If you press this button, the driver of the train will be able to see you on a television screen and organise police assistance if you require it.
  • Choose to sit in carriages with other customers rather than by yourself.
  • Check out who you are getting into a train carriage with - if it doesn't look safe, don't stay, move yourself into the next carriage.
  • Refrain or listen to music on a lower volume at night so that you can stay aware of the night environment.
  • Where possible, and especially at night, don't travel alone.
  • Where possible keep your possessions close to you and not on view.
  • When waiting at a station:
    • stand in well lit areas
    • make yourself aware of where the cameras are located
    • stand close to the silver box located on the station wall with a red and green button. If you press the red button on the railway station platform, the camera will turn on in "real" time and the Station.
  • Safety initiativeshave also been established and implemented by Melbourne's train operator, Connex, and the State Government of Victoria.

Who can I contact if I need advice or help?

VU has setup a new confidential helpline number for students wanting advice, or who have any concerns about safety issues.

VU Student Safety Helpline: 9919 5559
Email: safety@vu.edu.au

The Minister for Education has established a student hotline: 1300 363 079. 

Students can anonymously raise concerns which will be collated and published on www.studyinaustralia.gov.au so that all students can benefit from this information.

Please note that the helpline is not for immediate emergency assistance. If you're requiring immediate help in an emergency dial 000.

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