A Victoria University study into the safety of international students in Melbourne has found that a vast majority find the city to be a safe place. Nevertheless, many students reported threats to their safety that they believed had a racial, religious or cultural element.
More than 1000 international and domestic students across Melbourne were surveyed for the study by VU's Institute for Community, Ethnicity and Policy Alternatives (ICEPA). A further 35 students completed in-depth interviews and 29 stakeholders, including Victoria Police, student associations and consular officials, were also interviewed at length.
Other key findings include:
- More than half of surveyed international students found the city less safe than they had anticipated
- A complex cocktail of factors were identified by students as safety threats, including lack of access to safe affordable housing, high-risk employment and poor transport options, but racism was one of the most frequently mentioned
- Perpetrators of violence were frequently identified by those who participated in the study to be groups of young, alienated men
VU's Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Linda Rosenman said the report was an exploratory study funded by the University in June last year to examine the issues surrounding the attacks on international students in Melbourne.
"It is a thorough study and although we make no claims that the survey sample is fully representative, we believe the report provides valuable evidence and indicates the need for further research," Professor Rosenman said.
"The report identifies the need for government, education providers and authorities to better understand and to acknowledge all factors affecting the safety of international students.
"We now have evidence that housing, employment, transport and racism are all in the mix as factors that influence attacks and abuse of international students in Australia.
"The opportunism argument – that a student who has been assaulted or robbed was in the wrong place at the wrong time – appears likely to be true in some cases. However, in other cases students say that racism was a motivating factor. As Victoria Police officers interviewed as part of this study have indicated, the distinction can be blurred.
"It is essential that threats to the safety of international students in our country are minimised. This means developing prevention and support programs that address the major issues raised in the report. Safety is a basic human right and must be protected."
Jim Buckell, Communications Officer, Government Liaison Unit, Victoria University
Ph: (03) 9919 4243; mobile: 0400 465 459; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Andy Gash, A/ Media Manager, Marketing and Communications, Victoria University
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