20 January 2010

Victoria Police Admits: Indians are Overrepresented in Robbery Statistics.

The ABC* has finally extracted an admission from the Chief of the Victorian Police that Indians are over-represented in crime statistics in Melbourne. Looking deeper into the statistics some interesting points emerge. Firstly, about 50% of attacks on Indians have been on Taxi drivers or in convenience stores and the over-representation is in robberies, not assaults as the media hype has led us to believe.

If anyone reading this has been in Melbourne lately they will know that Indians are now the most common taxi drivers & the most common convenience store attendants. Taxi drivers and convenience store attendants have been attacked in Melbourne for decades, long before the latest wave of Indians came along. These are very dangerous jobs. How many of the robberies and attacks we hear about are simply because the Indians coming here as students don't have enough money to live and are prepared to do any job? How many of the attacks could have been avoided by people who are more familiar with drunken, loutish behaviour and ways to avoid it? I've never worked in a convenience store on a midnight to dawn shift but have heard enough stories to avoid doing it at all costs. To those parents who are sending their sons to Melbourne to study, without enough money for fees and living expenses, be aware that you are putting them into a more dangerous life than most Australians lead. More dangerous than most overseas students too.

Then the same question needs to be turned around to the Australian government. Why are students accepted without enough money to live on? Why are students allowed to stay on after their courses have finished if the only jobs they can get are as taxi drivers? Clearly the skilled migration scheme has brought in a lot of people who are ready and willing to work, but aren't quite appropriate for skilled jobs in Australia. The government has avoided any big changes to the skilled immigration policy because it would endanger the now-enormous education industry. As long as a degree from an Australian University gives a small fraction of overseas students the ability to stay here permanently, the Universities will be flooded with students. Many of those students will end up going back home to families who will see them as failures, their youth & hope wasted on the dream of becoming Australian residents. This puts too much pressure on students, leading to risk taking, suicides and mental illness. The skilled immigration laws should be tightened to de-couple permanent residence in Australia from long courses of study - perhaps the English proficiency requirement should be judged at the beginning of the course, not at the end, so students don't maintain the Australian dream for several years of study, just to have it dashed at the end.

*Australian Broadcasting Corporation

10 January 2010

Is Melbourne a violent, racist place?

Comments originally from a Facebook Group - 4 June 2009

The stories we're hearing in the media point to some semi-organised gangs who are targeting Indian - looking overseas students. I am reminded of the film "Romper Stomper", a 1992 movie where a gang of neo-Nazis attack Vietnamese in Footscray. ( )
I mention it because the movie may give you all some insight into why these people choose to attack the latest new arrivals. Its not nice or pretty & these kind of racist people do exist in Australia, but we don't hear about Vietnamese being attacked any more. Why?

On something completely different, I disagree with some writers about provision of accommodation. I think overseas students should be provided with the option of living on campus at least during their first semester. I was an overseas student in London & found staying on campus a very easy way to gradually learn how to act & how to live in my new city. I could then avoid living in areas where I was likely to be attacked on my way home from the University.
That is not to say overseas students should be provided with free accommodation, but something which is at comparable rates to living off-campus. Traditionally, living on campus at the Universities in Melbourne has been a more expensive option.

5 June 2009

It is extraordinarily difficult to work here for 20 hours a week, make enough money for tuition fees and living expenses & study a full time course as well. That is more than the local students try to do & an awful lot of pressure for someone to put on themselves. In these circumstances, racist attacks are only one of the dangers students face. I have recently had a close friend become very ill under these kind of pressures - a serious illness which probably wouldn't have happened without the study & work & English language pressure - and which will be with her for the rest of her life. I think a better solution for the present time is to somehow change perceptions that you can do all these things. Discourage students from coming over here for PR. Let students be students, not PR applicants. If the course gives you nothing but PR, don't do it. Do a course which can get you a step ahead when you get home.
The government may change the immigration rules to reduce further the number of OS students eligible for PR anyway.

10 January 2010
Sadly, attacks on Indian students in Melbourne are continuing. Despite government platitudes about Melbourne's safety Indians here are living in an increasing environment of fear. The fear isn't about statistics. What terror is ever about statistics? Who cared if more people were killed on New York's roads in 2001 than in the 9-11 attacks? The TV footage had the whole world scared. An Indian graduate, Nitin Garg, was fatally attacked this week while walking to work through a park in Yarraville. Traditionally nearby Footscray is one of Melbourne's most dangerous areas. Most of the the attacks are in Melbourne's Western suburbs, a cheap place to live, but much more dangerous than the eastern suburbs. Some of the violence may be simply opportunistic robberies by drug addicts looking for their next fix. Avoiding dangerous areas and times would help prevent people from being a soft target for these kind of crimes.

The concerning factor is that Indian students say there is a more sinister kind of crime occurring, which the perpetrators call "curry bashing", which is clearly racially motivated. Whether Nitin Garg was the victim of a random attack or whether it was racially motivated, its clear that attacks on Indians in Melbourne aren't stopping. I wonder whether the Andrew Bolt's Herald Sun column from September 2007 explains why the police response is inadequate. Andrew Bolt explained how police statements underplayed the role of gangs in violent crime in Noble Park, an outer Eastern suburb of Melbourne. Are they doing the same thing when a gang attacks an Indian student?

15 April 2009

Hairdressing. PR or not PR?

This desperate message arrived in my in-box in Dec 2008...


08 April 2009

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20 December 2008

Changes to Skilled Migration Processing

On the 17th of December, the Australian government announced changes to the way applications for skilled migration visas are handled. Occupations on the new critical skills list will be fast-tracked, while other occupations on the Migration Occupations in Demand (MODL) list will proceed more slowly.

The press has been quick to pick up the fact that cooks, and hairdressers are not on the critical skills list. The changes will become effective on 1 January 2009, so any students currently studying cookery or hairdressing courses as a short-cut to permanent residence may find themselves heading back home in 2009. The government is maintaining the target of 133 500 places for skilled migrants in 2008-9, but does not guarantee that many migrants will actually be allowed visas.

While the change is something of a shock for students part way through their courses, the economic situation in Australia has changed radically in the second half of 2008 and a reduction in the number of skilled migrants is almost inevitable. Numbers have risen very quickly since 1996-7, when only 24,000 people migrated to Australia in the Skilled migration program. In 2007-2008 the number was just over 100,000. The economic situation will hit students and the skilled migration program. Already, students are finding it more difficult to find part time work. Retailers are finding it tough, with some stores, such as Portmans, a women's fashion store, advertising 70% off some stock today. Some stores have been brought their traditional Boxing Day discounts forward a week to try to encourage people to buy. Normally prices don't budge until the 24th of December at the earliest and I haven't seen such early, extreme discounting in recent years. I even doubt whether it happened in 1990 or 1991, in the depths of recession.

One thing we should remember from 1990 & 1991 was that immigration became unpopular as unemployment in Australia rose. Even though immigration became unpopular, the government didn't shut down the skilled migration program completely. If unemployment rises in 2009, and all the indications are that it will, there will come a time when the public will lose patience with skilled migrants driving taxis as locals are unable to find work, even as taxi drivers. To pre-empt the shift in public opinion, the government has re-adjusted the migration system to better ensure skilled migrants will be able to find work in their area of skill.

My prediction is that the MODL list will be either totally superseded by the "critical demand" list or shortened next year to only include professions which are "recession-proof", professions like those on the critical demand list such as medical professionals and plumbers. Lets face it, if you're plumbing is leaking you'll get it fixed, even if takes your last dollar.

23 May 2008

Student Jobs and Finances

How much is the basic pay of a student who is doing a part time job?

Ahmad: The FairPay Commission has set $12.5 per hour as the minimum wage.

Rajan added:

We also know that a lot small business owners take advantage of overseas students and lure them into cash in hand jobs where they pay them about $8 per hour or so. It is better to look for a job which sticks to the Government Regulations.

You can't do much about it if your cash in hand employer decides not to pay you at all.

How much time it would take to find a job after reaching Australia(by student visa)?

Ahmad: Depends on how hard you look...

Q: Is there any placement agencies who assist to find part time jobs?

Ahmad: Yes. The majority of job-searches are done online though.

Q: Is it possible to earn some money during the course by doing part time jobs? Is it possible to save at least 300AUD per month?

Ahmad: Yes. 20 hours of work a week is allowed during semesters...How much you can actually work depends on your timetable.

Q:Is it possible to save at least 300 AUD per month?

Ahmad: If you are looking at paying your fee, living expenses and still having $200 left, I would say probably not.

You should be able to break even and perhaps save some money provided you live in relatively cheap accommodation, work a substantial portion of the 20 hours allowed, and don't spend extravagantly.

Michelle: Earning money to pay full fees and living costs by working 20 hours per week during semester is very unusual & probably not feasible.

Ahmad & Rajan have been posting answers to questions in the Melbourne Community on orkut. Reproduced with permission.

08 May 2008

How to find a house to rent for six people

I received the following email yesterday:

Hi, my name is S. B. I saw the blog and understand that you have some knowledge about renting houses just walking distance from the Caulfield campus? I am going over at the end of June 2008 and I am in need of a big house. There are at least 6 of us. Is it possible if you could kindly provide any information to us regarding any house with 5 or more rooms available? We prefer taking the whole house. Your help would be much appreciated.

From Michelle:
Its good to hear you're getting organised early, by getting together a group who will live together. Its more difficult to actually rent a house before you get here, and you should be careful to thoroughly inspect any house before renting it. Beware that some of the rental accommodation in Melbourne is not very well maintained.

If you are sure that you want to live within walking distance of Caulfield campus, you will have only a limited number of houses available to rent. You will have many more accommodation options if you are prepared to take a train or tram, or cycle to the University. I have to admit the transport would be expensive, at $28 for a week if you confine yourself to "Zone 1", but rents can be cheaper a little further from the city centre. Rents for a 4 bedroom house within walking distance of the campus in Caulfield and Malvern are advertised as high as $1000 per month, but search more widely down the train line in Carnegie, Murrumbeena, Hughesdale or Oakleigh and you could find a house like this one for only $450 per week.

One thing many students do to reduce costs is share a room, and there are a few houses and flats set up for high density student living (for example, see this ad on Looking through the rental advertisements on and I can see that there are very few houses for rent with more than 4 bedrooms. To fit 5 people, you may have to rent a 3 or 4 bedroom house, and convert a living room or garage to living space, or share bedrooms. Many 3 or 4 bedroom houses will have a large living room (with chairs, TV etc) which some people convert to 2 bedrooms.

While you can contact advertisers on websites like and before you arrive, I don't think you will get very far. My suggestion is that one or two of you arrive a couple of weeks early to find a house for the rest of you to live.

I hope this advice proves useful.

30 March 2008

Desalination Would Cost Too Much

Melbourne has been under permanent water restrictions for nearly two years. With a rising population, the restrictions are unlikely to lift. Currently, water can be used freely for drinking, washing, cooking and other inside-the-house uses, but watering of gardens is severely restricted. The Victorian state government is now planning to introduce more water pipelines and a desalination plant to guarantee the future water supply.

The government's current plans are just a knee-jerk reaction. We may be low on water, but that's no reason to introduce a costly and inefficient desalination plant. Surely it would be more efficient to pipe recycled water for large industrial users such as our La Trobe Valley power plants.

Recycled water is used for drinking in other parts of the world, in fact I've drunk it myself while living in London. On the world's driest continent I think we can learn to drink recycled water, just as we have learned to sweep our driveways rather than hosing them down.

Comment posted by Michelle at the age blog PotteringBy

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