International Event – Education under Attack in Australia

June 4, 2009

By Padmini Arhant

In continuation of the topic on racial attacks against Indian students (from India) in Melbourne, Australia, the incident in the new millennium strikes resemblance to apartheid in South Africa until it became free in 1994.

Australia designated as the industrialized nation, multicultural yet homogenous society…devoid of major ethnic representation in politics, democratic with mandatory voting (the only democratic nation to impose penalty for not voting) and,

A willful participant in all U.S. led major conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq – is a commonwealth nation sworn allegiance to Great Britain’s monarch as the head of the Republic.

The nation from “down under” celebrated bicentennial in 1970 and 1988 to commemorate the permanent white settlement is not a young republic and not new to controversies either.

Source – Wikipedia (The Free encyclopedia) – Thanks

“The bicentenary of Australia was celebrated in 1970 on the 200th anniversary of Captain James Cook landing and claiming the land, and again in 1988 to celebrate 200 years of permanent white settlement.”

Australian history mired with brutal killings of the Aborigines, the original inhabitants of the biggest island on earth and systemic abuse of the indigenous population and culture continues until date.

Sadly, Australia founded as a convict colony by Great Britain that outlawed its own citizens for petty crimes like stealing a straw or a loaf of bread to homicide. Australia essentially served as “Guantanamo Bay” for the then colonial Great Britain well into the early twentieth century. The exhibits tell tales in the notorious Port Arthur prison, a tourist site located at Hobart, Tasmania.

Australia upon becoming republic while maintaining the British Royalty as the head of the state until now embraced White Australia Policy abolished in 1973.

Source – Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia) – Thanks

“The White Australia policy stands for the historical policies that intentionally restricted non-white immigration to Australia from 1901 to 1973.”

The xenophobia attributed to – "It is not the bad qualities, but the good qualities of these alien races that make them so dangerous to us. It is their inexhaustible energy, their power of applying themselves to new tasks, their endurance and low standard of living that make them such competitors."

Australia along with its commonwealth partner Canada rejected the trade sanctions against the former Apartheid South Africa and refused to commit to the toughening sanctions proposal by the delegates from Africa, India and Guyana during the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers’ committee on South Africa, in Harare and Canberra in 1989.

Then, the government sponsored Anti-Asian immigration sentiments surfaced (subjecting all nations in the geographical regions of Asia) in mid 1985 – 1989 represented by the former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard as the opposition coalition leader during that time. Mr. Howard wasted no time in pushing Australia to forge alliance with Europe against the viable and pragmatic choice, Asia.

Ironically, in the Australian politics Liberal party represents the conservative view and policy. There are other parties such as labor, democrats, green peace…advocating for social, economic and environmental issues.

On August 31, 2001, the SOS from a Norwegian cargo ship “Tampa” with desperate Afghan refugees comprising mostly children and women aboard rescued from the sinking ferry off the Indonesian shores, rejected by the Australian Prime Minister John Howard with no outcry or uproar from mainstream Australia. Any protests held were predominantly by muslims and other minorities along with the refugees on board seeking relief.

The newly independent and poorest nation, East Timor volunteered to accept refugees and requested the international community to pay for the cause. Again, the offer was declined by Norwegian and Australian government.

Ref: World news –

UN: Australia should take refugees

Australians ignore plea on refugees – The Guardian, Thursday 30 August 2001 08.36 BST

Reflection:By Padmini Arhant

It’s important for the world community to understand the plight of the Aborigine population with no sign of progress in the twenty first century. The appalling infant mortality combined with the young aborigines dying at alarming rates in police custody from suicides and other controversial treatment is a reality in the remote Australian outback, the permanent settlement allocated for the forbidden indigenous group.

Further, the living conditions for the aborigine is deplorable and conscientiously deprived of basic education, health care and job opportunities. The average life span floats around mid thirties for the fortunate survivors of the harsh existence in the proudly acclaimed land of diversity.

The aborigine status quo prompted the Nobel Peace Laureate, Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa to criticize Australia – “Clean up your own backyard prior to finger pointing at others on human rights” during his visit to the island nation.

Shifting focus on the continuing harassment and violence against student immigrants from India or elsewhere – it is a serious and an embarrassing issue for the country in the forefront to condemn atrocities particularly in the poorest and developing regions of the world.

The media across the board thrives on negative reporting by producing images and events in bad light about the poor and developing nations and cultivates ignorance among the general population.

There is an inherent discriminatory practice against targeted groups within the society and often experienced at work force denying jobs and promotions under the guise of the requirement of “unique Australian expertise” regardless of credentials and experience from advanced nations.

The selective employment process eliminating qualified students and immigrants not barring equal entitlements to anything and everything as taxpayers is suggestive of blatant negligence to care for the segment significantly contributing to the economic growth.

This so-called cultural misunderstanding is a misnomer given the extensive travelling by the average Australians to exotic locations in Asia such as Bali – Indonesia, Phuket – Thailand, Colombo – Sri Lanka and last but not the least destinations in India.

The law enforcement authorities responsible for the protection of citizens and visitors to the country allegedly did not make any arrests in the burgeoning racial attacks in public transport and a particular incident involving the petrol bomb thrown at an Indian student in his residence.

Social behavior of citizens is a collective responsibility and shared by parents, educational system, legal and law enforcement authorities alike with the human life and safety at risk in public areas and privacy of their home. It would be inappropriate for all those crying foul to the call for government intervention given the socialist system in Australia.

The Australian government and educational institutions profiting from the lucrative educational venture have a legal and moral responsibility in ensuring equal humanitarian rights for all in their domain. Australia’s reputation lies in the fair and proper treatment of the temporary and permanent migrants with respect and dignity under humanitarian law.

Australian High Commission in New Delhi, Mumbai and other cities in India has an ethical duty to verify and investigate exploitation and fraudulent claims against their accredited agents hired by them to enroll students in Australian institutions.

In other matter, Australia’s position has been contradictory in more than one respect.

While, proclaiming to be a an environmentalist…Australia is the major exporter of fossil fuel – coal to the leading polluter China and vigorously competing for uranium supply to India and other nations.

Australian landscape is truly a paradise and nature’s best gift to mankind. However, Australian society has failed to meet adequately with the challenges of promoting multiculturalism desperately required for its own survival and sustenance in the competitive global economy.

Nation’s progress rests beyond investment in infrastructure and best reflected in the tolerance of human race.

Hopefully, with the Labor government under the leadership of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant