The death of a Brazilian student after being tasered by NSW police in Sydney could not have come at a worse time for Australia's embattled international student market which last year lost $3.3 billion in revenues.
The Australian Government's Asian and Indian missions and university marketing departments have been working furiously on rebuilding Australia's reputation as a safe destination for international students to hit the books.
But as the 21 year old Brazilian English language student, Roberto Laudisio,hit the pavement after being tasered three times for allegedly stealing a packet of biscuits, Australia's reputation went with him.
Graphic CCTV footage showed the student's final moments as he was chased down a city street by six police officers and subdued by a final taser shot to his back. Witnesses claimed the man screamed "help me" as the officers held him down.
One can only wonder what the parents of international prospective students think when they read these stories in their local media. Australia is not a violent society. Indeed, compared to many Latin American countries, it is a paragon of peace and amity.
We don't know very much about Roberto but we know he was running for his life. He wasn't armed. He was alone and frightened. Was he on drugs? That will be decided by the Coroner.
While there is always an element of danger in international travel, it is hard to reconcile the murder and assault of Indian students in Melbourne and this recent tragedy in Sydney as being the norm. Australia is not like that. We know that but prospective international students and their parents don't.
We have had reports and inquiries in to the welfare of international students but the recent death of Roberto will cause untold damage to Australia's offshore reputation with agents and clients. One might be able to explain away some of the attacks on Indian students over the last three years as being opportunistic. Roberto's death is the nail in the coffin.
The 2010 Racism and the tertiary student experience in Australiareport launched by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner Graeme Innes in 2010, examined ways to reduce racially motivated crimes against international students.
The report emphasised that people – including the police – needed to understand the lifestyle of international students and to understand their vulnerabilities and risks.
"We need to gather much better data about the international student population, including their income, expenses, employment, working conditions and accommodation options ..." Commissioner Innes said.
According to a 2009 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade report there were more than 17,500 Brazilian student enrolments in Australian institutions including schools, universities, vocational education and training providers and English language colleges.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
19 posts so far.