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.
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.
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.