Australian education consultants see drop in student enquiries, claim violence is media hype

With the attacks on Indian students in Australia still a burning issue, we decided to find out how the business of educational consultants has been affected and their role in instilling faith in Indians aspiring to study in Australia. If you’re wondering who educational consultants are – they are the people who manage majority of the admissions and counseling for Australian Universities from India and manage Visa requirements. Guest Writer Nainy Sahani did a quick interview with Gulshan Kumar, the president of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India (AAERI) to understand violence on Indians in Australia from the perspective of educational consultants.

Whats your take on the recent uproar involving several Indian students being assaulted in Australia? Have the number of Indian students going to Australia reduced as a result?

The actual numbers so far havent gone down, which is confirmed by both the (Indian and Australian) governments. None of our students who had a Visa for July, withdrew due to this, they are all off to Australia. But what weve noticed recently is that new inquiries have dropped. But that has varied region to region as well. The areas of Gujarat and Punjab have been most affected. For Punjab alone, the inquiry rates have dropped 50 to 60 %.

The extensive media coverage has largely centered on Racism as the cause of violence, but are there other reasons to the reported assaults?

I would not call it racism. The Indian community is very highly placed in Australia. On my trip to Australia recently, we met with the Indian communities living there, the Indian students, the Indian High Commissioner, University people, and we gathered that it can’t be given a racism label, as has been portrayed in the Indian media. Its not true because Australians are very well connected to the Indians; most Australians are very disturbed with such news themselves. Calling it Racism is absolutely wrong. There are over 200,000 Indians in Australia and they are doing very well, occupying senior positions in Universities and government sectors. And every Australian community and office has condemned these attacks in one way or other.

What according to you is the truth about the attacks?

The attacks are a very small occurrence and have been hyped by the media. There are other factors as well. Indian students comprise 20% of the total international students in Australia. So every fifth international student in Australia is an Indian. And in some cities, Indians are in big numbers, Melbourne being one such city with the maximum Indian students. I extended my visit and lived in Melbourne for three weeks, and I noticed most taxi drivers were Indian students, most petrol pump employees were Indian students and 24 hour stores like 7-11 too were being managed by Indian students so they tended to be soft targets. And anyone could be attacked at late hours at such places. We also found out through the government bodies that many times the attackers were not white themselves.

What is AAERI’s role in ensuring safety for Indian students in Australia?

We recently took a 8 member delegation to Australia. It was headed by me and we went in the month of July. When we had first received news such as these in India we were hurt and we wanted first hand information. Some of the students even commented to me in Australia that they received this news from the Indian media and despite living in Australia they had no idea.

We are trying to bridge the gap and keep the best of both parties at bay. We are going to the Indian governments and are ready to cooperate with any policy (changes) and at the same time, we are telling Australian government to tighten up on the Visa process to not allow students who cannot cope academically or financially (in Australia). We dont want that sort of name for Indian students. We want to send our deserving students outside, so that we may provide them the best and they benefit the most.

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