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Greens to push for Senate Inquiry as student tensions build

The Greens say ongoing tensions in the community around the safety and welfare of international students necessitate a Senate Inquiry into Australia’s international education sector.

Protests by Indian students have continued for the past two nights in response to attacks on Indian students studying in Australia, while other reports say some international students may be facing deportation for entering the country on forged documents.

“The concerns for international students in Australia are not limited to Indian students, nor attacks at train stations,” said Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson for Education.

“The issues facing international students are challenges the Government must tackle head-on.

“Meanwhile, the Greens support Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in calling for any protests to remain peaceful.

“A Senate Inquiry is needed to get all the information on the table from students themselves, universities, and others in the sector, to determine the best way forward for our booming international education industry – our third largest export behind iron ore and coal.”

Senator Hanson-Young said responses from the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee during Senate Estimates last week indicated the scope of the problems relating to international students.

“The Government admitted in Senate Estimates that it has been aware of issues around international student safety for several years,” said Senator Hanson-Young.

“Countries other than India have made representations to Australia following incidents involving their citizens who are studying here.

“The fact that there are currently only voluntary guidelines within a code of conduct for the international education sector – which does not cover important welfare and safety issues such as housing - indicates the need for closer examination and universal benchmarks to be determined.

“It’s just a shame that things have gotten to this point – which is why the Greens will be moving for a Senate Inquiry into international education in Australia when Parliament resumes next week.”

The Greens’ proposed Senate Inquiry Terms of Reference are as follows.

That the following matters be referred to the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee for inquiry and report by November 16 2009:
a) The roles and responsibilities of education providers, migration agents, state and federal governments, and relevant departments, in ensuring the quality and adequacy in information, advice, service delivery and support, with particular reference to:
• Student safety;
• Adequate and affordable accommodation;
• Social inclusion;
• Student Visa Requirements;
• Employment rights and protections from exploitation; and
• Adequate international student supports and advocacy;
b) The identification of quality benchmarks and controls for service, advice and support for international students studying at an Australian education institution;
c) And other related matters.

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