IT WAS a beautiful sunny Saturday that could not have ended better.
There was salsa, capoeira, a taste of Bollywood, and even a local saltwater crocodile named Snappy who went out on a limb, balancing on its hind legs to welcome the city’s international students.
Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle officiated the festivities at Federation Square.
Cr Doyle said Melbourne City Council had worked hard over the last 18 months to make international students feel at home in Australia, and had taken the lead in Melbourne to provide dedicated staff and services to meet their needs.
“What’s most pleasing to me is that people come back and they say to me that they’ve studied here, they’ve come back and worked here and now they want to move here to work and raise their families, and that would be great if some of you came back,” he told the crowd of about 1000.
Cr Doyle said despite a drop in the number of Indian students studying in Melbourne this year, enrolment figures from countries such as China, Vietnam and Thailand were up, and Melbourne remained the fourth most sought after study destination in the world for students.
The event was also an opportunity for some students to raise their concerns with the Lord Mayor.
Satee, a student from Malaysia who only wanted to be known by her first name, said she was satisfied by council’s efforts to reach out to international students, but would like to see changes made to work visas for graduate students.
“Visa status is the first consideration to be made when they (employers) are hiring. We don’t stand a change against citizens and permanent residents,” she said.
She was also worried about the increasing prevalence of drunken brawls in the city.
Amritpal Singh, a student volunteer at the event, was also concerned about safety.
“There have been a bit of racial attacks, a bit of abuse and that has been an unhealthy state of events… But I think now, they’re trying to make sure that Melbourne is a secure place,” Mr Singh said.
“That’s why the Lord Mayor came earlier and he said have fun, be responsible, and don’t do unnecessary things that could harm you.”
A Federation of Indian Students of Australia spokeswoman said the council needed to do more to fight for transport concessions for international students.
She said student unions have been campaigning for years, without success.
Cr Doyle said the council and universities have been pushing for transport concessions, but their call had fallen on the State Government’s “deaf ears”.
“I think international students deserve exactly the same conditions as our own students,” he said.