02 August 2009
Indian Students Studying In NSW -- Numbers Dropping
New South Wales can ill afford to be potentially losing some AUD 300 million in revenue from Indian students who choose to study in NSW's institutes of learning and education. However, this is the prospect facing the current Rees government in view of their total inability to reassure potential students coming from the sub-continent about their safety should they choose to come and study here in NSW.
Australia, as most countries in the world, have elements that are not welcoming of those different from themselves. And, in this regard NSW has its share of this element as well. The recent violent conflicts that have given rise to this potential loss are racial conflicts between Indian students and some Australian youths of Lebanese ancestry.
The local media portrayed the conflicts as seething tensions between Indian students and Lebanese youths. This is always the way, when the Australian multicultural community does things that are considered to promote the Australian way of life or they make a contribution that makes all Australians proud, then they are Australians. However, in contrast when they do something which causes shame or embarrassment, then the media and a great majority of the rest of us resort to referring to them based on their ancestral homes. This is irrespective of whether these youths are 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation Australians.
However, it is worth noting that racism in Australia is not only Anglo-Australians against the rest. Racism is not limited to one group or another. If it exists, then it is fair to say that it exists across the board. Growing up I always remember visiting my grandmother in Punchbowl, and even as a kid I could notice the changing demographic as one group moved out as another moved in, and this cycle repeated itself. My Nan, I think, she just like living their, and besides she had always lived there, so there it was.
Back to the main point. The bad publicity like the Harris Park stand-off and the subsequent overload of bad press in India has meant that Indians have developed the idea that Australia, and NSW in particular are racist places. This is not true. However, once a perception takes hold it is always difficult to undo. This growing negative view has resulted in new student enquiries about studying in NSW dropping some 50% in next to no time at all.
Generally, there are anywhere up to 20,000 Indian students studying in NSW alone at any one time. On average international students contribute about AUD 29,000 to the Australian economy. The basic math here would suggest that Indian students alone are making quite a significant contribution to the NSW economy.
The response of sending the Minister of Education out to reassure potential students that it is OK is probably a little on the short side. Maybe NSW needs to invest a little to protect the market and be a lot more pro-active in promoting the fact that these incidents, like the Harris Park one, are isolated. The NSW Government needs to recruit prominent members of the Indian community to be part of the campaign to highlight that NSW is not a racist place and in fact it is a welcoming place, and a great place to study and gain an excellent education.