Government to consider ways to protect international students on and off campus

The federal education department has been asked to work with universities on strategies to ensure international students are kept physically safe.

Students read at the Quadrangle of the University of Sydney in Sydney

Education Minister Dan Tehan says international uni students need to be protected from crime. (AAP) Source: SBS

Australia's education officials have been asked to ensure the physical safety of international students, after a spate of crimes apparently targeting overseas young people near a Melbourne university. 

The Herald Sun reported on Monday that students at Melbourne's Monash University are among more than a dozen people to have reported being robbed in the area in the space of three weeks.

Victorian police confirmed 13 attempted robberies or robberies had occurred close to the Monash campus in the past 18 days.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has asked his department to work with universities on strategies to make sure students are better protected.

The department has been consulting with the education providers on fresh strategies to deal with mental health issues among overseas students. 

Mr Tehan said he was concerned about criminals targeting foreign students near Monash University and has now added physical safety as a priority in the development of the strategy.

"Particularly when we’ve got a sector that’s worth $34 billion to our economy we have to make sure we’re taking the necessary steps to keep international students safe," Mr Tehan told SBS News.  

Education Minister Dan Tehan is threatening university cheats with jail time or up to $210,000 in fines.
Dan Tehan. Source: AAP

Mr Tehan said 95 per cent of international students rate their personal safety and security as one of the reasons they chose Australia as a place to study.

He named engaging with law enforcement agencies and better education of the dangers on and off campus as priorities. 

"Often it can be language, culture, it can be not understanding the physical environment in which you are walking in.

"They’re the types of things we’ve got to make sure we’re educating our international students on when they come.

"It’s work that the universities already do, but we’ve got to make sure if there are other things in particular we could be doing."

International students are falling prey to dodgy landlords, a new report has found.
International students are falling prey to dodgy landlords, a new report has found. Source: AAP

Police do not, however, believe the recent robberies are being targeted purely at international students.

"Police do not believe international students are being targeted for these crimes. We believe the perpetrators of these offences are opportunistic and are seeing victims of various ethnicities and ages, ranging from the early 20s to early 50s," Victorian police said in a statement.

"These crimes are frightening and can have lasting impacts on victims so we are doing everything we can to ensure the victim’s welfare is looked after, including ensuring they have access to support if they need it.

"One victim is one too many... while Melbourne is a safe city, we are seeing street robberies committed by a small number of people in our community. This is not acceptable."

Police have stepped up their patrols around the university.  

A spokesperson for Monash said student security was "paramount".

"Monash University has extensive security measures in place at all times.  All our campuses are equipped with CCTV, electronic building access and alarm technology. Monash has 24/7 security patrols on all Campuses," the university said in a statement.

"As the Federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan has already acknowledged. Australia is known around the world as a safe and secure study destination with 95 per cent of international students rating their personal safety and security as one of the reasons they have chosen to study in Australia."

The university has told the paper the thefts took place outside campuses, but that students who have become "unfortunate victims of crime" have been offered counselling.

Under laws relating to international students, education providers must provide access to support services to ensure the mental and physical wellbeing of their students from overseas.

with AAP.

4 min read
Published 4 June 2019 at 8:24am
By Gloria Kalache, Rosemary Bolger