Do you feel safe in Australia?

A NEW report shows safety is a priority for many international students when choosing a university. With the recent murder and rape of a woman in Melbourne and attacks against students in the past, is Australia still considered a safe study destination? Joanne Koh ponders on this and has some tips on protecting yourself.

Jill Meagher was last seen on Sydney Rd, Brunswick. Photo: Charles Strebor via Flickr

Personal safety in Australia has become a pressing issue, heightened by last month’s incident where a woman was randomly abducted on a trendy Brunswick street and found murdered a few days later.

News of Jill Meagher’s death came as a shock to the nation and its neighbours who not-so-long-ago regarded Australia as a fairly safe country, as evidenced by the sheer number of international students here.

But in light of the racist attacks on Indian international students in 2009, as well as a few isolated cases concerning Chinese students, the perception of Australia as a safe destination for international students has changed. A British report shows Canada, Germany and New Zealand are now perceived as safe study destinations instead.

Although reports of racist attacks on Indians have declined, the events in 2009 are still affecting Indian students’ decision to study in Australia. Figures compiled by the government’s Australian international education agency has revealed higher education enrolments of Indian students fell from 27,500 three years ago to fewer than 12,000 by August this year.

Do you feel safe in Australia?

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Issues surrounding safety are not new but it is important to be reminded frequently of ways to protect yourself. The case of Jill Meagher has shown that crime can happen to anyone in Australia, and as international students in a country that is no longer thought of as “safe”; we must take extra care in ensuring our safety.

A new crime statistics report by Victoria Police shows crime rates have risen, with nearly 400,000 offences recorded last year – a rise of 8.2 per cent from the previous year.  Violent crimes against people are up 11.8 per cent.

North-West Metro regions of Victoria have been recorded to have the highest increase in offences, with crimes against the person raised by 10.2 per cent. While the report by Victoria Police does not outline crimes rates by specific suburbs, it is important to take caution where ever you are.

Below are some guidelines by Victoria Police on how you can protect yourself at all times.

  • When using an ATM or public phone, look around first to make sure nobody is watching you.
    Be aware of appearing as an easy target –stand where you can see someone approaching and project confidence with your body language. Immediately place all cash in your wallet/pocket – never count it in front of the ATM.
  • At night, try to find an ATM or phone booth that is well-lit and not isolated.
  • Consider service stations, supermarkets and department stores as alternative options to withdraw money.
  • Avoid discussing your personal affairs in public.
  • If practical, do not go to the toilet alone.
  • Watch your valuables at all times.
  • Take care with your drinks. “Date rape” drugs are in use and are often colourless and odourless.
  • When leaving a social venue, try not to leave on your own or be isolated from other patrons.
    Let your friends know who you are leaving with and consider making arrangements to contact someone when you arrive safely at your destination.
  • Where possible, try to book a taxi rather than hailing one from the street.
  • Write down the company through which you made the booking, note the registration and license plate numbers.

Do you think Australia is safe? Are some suburbs/ cities safer than others? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

There are 4 comments

  1. Mary

    Overall, I think the media has made this issue of international students and safety a big hype. No matter where you go, whether it’s in Australia, America, Europe, Asia… no where is ever 100% safe! The difference is being some countries not as safe as others. I can say that overall Australia is quite safe, but this also means that we still need to exercise “street smart” and caution when we are out. Too many people buying into “Australia is very safe” and this is not 100% accurate 🙁

  2. Anon

    It’s devastating to hear about such incidents that occur in Australia and stop others from coming here, but with enough education and sensible and rational advice we could start bringing more international students back again

  3. Prague Teacher

    The new motto on Australia’s coat of arms should be POLICE MADE NO ARRESTS. I left Australia in 2007 to live and work in Prague. I feel safe here. In my 7 years here I have NEVER heard of:
    Home Invasions
    Gate crashers wrecking parties and weddings
    King hits
    Anti social behaviour involving hundreds

    But what shocks me most is the daily menu of violent events that are reported in the media which end with the comment ”Police made no arrests”. Worst still are the situations where hundreds of youths run riot at an event and we read that police made 5 arrests. This tells the hundreds of others involved that they got away with it. Again!

    Is Australia a safe place? I don’t think so!! When people come to Prague the worse thing they have to worry about is pick pockets, not being put into a coma by some drunken lout intent on bashing just anyone.

    My kids, who still live in Perth tell me that violence happens everywhere. But in terms of where I feel safe, Australia is not at the top of my list!

  4. Melbourne Girl

    Prague teacher…thank you for saying what i’m thinking, Australia’s safety is overrated – it’s NOT safe. Especially int he western suburbs of melbourne or Sydney or in the city. constant harrassment by junkies, druggies and idiots who just want a fight for nothing. I actually think the people that live here are completely blind to it. As a girl I always feel completely unsafe here, always, and of course I feel intense anxiety at night, even when i’m with friends

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