Event ReportsPublished on Jul 22, 2009
Australia would be holding a skills Expo in India next year which would inform prospective migrants about the employment and lifestyle opportunities available in Australia
Australia seeks skilled manpower from India

Visiting Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans today assured India of safety and security of Indian students studying in his country asserting Australia "is a relatively safe country compared to many other nations with one of the lowest homicide rates in the world". Addressing a gathering at the Observer Research Foundation, Mr. Evans said that Australia was an emigrant country and would continue to be so as Canberra was looking for more skilled manpower from India.

India is the second largest source country in terms of migration to Australia after the United Kingdom, the Visiting Minister said and added that "We will be looking to India to be a major source of migrants, whether they were educated in Australia or educated in India". Canberra would encourage migration as per its economic needs and "there is no automatic link between study in Australia and access to permanent residency"; Mr. Evans said and expressed concern that there has been a rise in number of Indian students who were doing short term courses in cookery and hairdressing which was not his country’s requirement.

"The priorities for migration must be the needs of the Australian economy. Therefore the skills and qualifications we seek in migrants will vary over time. The Australian Government will adjust the programme to meet our national needs and not be driven by the education choices of overseas students", Mr. Evans stated and added "Those who seek to market access to a permanent visa in Australia rather than a quality education do a great disservice to potential students".

A review of the migration occupation in demand list, the MODL, is currently underway and its report is expected at the end of October this year, he said and added that the intention is to make the MODL more forward looking, thus putting the onus on the temporary and permanent employer sponsored visa categories to respond to the current skills shortage.

Australia would be holding a skills Expo in India next year which would inform prospective migrants about the employment and lifestyle opportunities available in Australia, the Minister said. India and Australia have agreed that the Joint Working Group on visas, passports and consular matters would meet for the first time next month for establishing better processing arrangements in this field. Strongly denying that recent attacks on Indian students were racial, the visiting Minister said there were criminal incidents and Australia has a very effective law enforcement capability.

Referring to six assaults and robbery that took place between March and June this year in Melbourne, the Minister informed that the Victorian police have arrested 11 males who are now facing trials. The trials are expected to begin this month and adults "convicted of assault can be sentenced to between two and 25 years in these circumstances".

Listing some of the steps taken by the Australian Government, Mr. Evans said a Prime Minister’s Task Force on Crimes against International Students has been set up. Some of the practical initiatives include a succession of high profile, visible police operations in both Victoria and New South Wales, targeting railways stations and other priority areas.

Similarly, community liaison work to reduce the incidence of violence is being promoted and enhanced, Mr. Evans said and informed that public safety information sessions and briefing for international students is also being stepped up. At a broader level, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is coming to India in September, recently chaired a meeting of state and federal education and training ministers and announced a number of initiatives to promote and protect international student welfare.

These initiatives include the setting up of an international student task force to develop strategies to support overseas students in Australia and establishing a telephone hotline through which students can raise concerns anonymously, with information to be collected and published n the studyaustralia.gov.au website so all students can benefit from it.

In addition, the Australian Government rigorously audits the quality of education providers. A number of investigations are underway and one college has recently closed, following an investigation. "When this occurs, we have arrangements in place to support students so they can continue their studies at another institution", the Minister said.

The Council of Australian Governments, or CoAG as it is known in Australia, has also considered this issue as a matter of student’s welfare as a matter of urgency. The CoAG provides one of the highest and most comprehensive levels of government decision making in Australia ad CoAG agreed at the start of this month to develop a comprehensive national international student’s strategy. The strategy would improve the international student experience, enhance the education offered, consider the quality of education providers and ensure a whole of government approach to international education and migration policies.

In response to media question about his meeting with Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal , Mr. Evans said that his interaction with the Indian Ministers have been constructive and stated that Mr. Sibal has evinced keen interest in expanding cooperation between the universities of the two countries. Mr. Sibal was particularly interested in the programmes that the Australian universities were conducting in Malaysia and Singapore, Mr. Evans said.

Satish Misra is a Senior Fellow in the Observer Research Foundation

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