Flying School Students:DEEWR must act soon!

The stories of the Flying school are known to all. These were covered in SMH, The Australian and ABC [Four Corners] recently.

I met a couple of them today, Sunday, in my office.

We all need to know that they came to Australia to train as pilots and return to India. They were not interested in the “PR” here. They had a vision about their career but it did not go according to their plans.

We all know that Vocational Education, Training Accreditation Board [VETAB] has done an enquiry and taken some action. Dept of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR] has created some confusion by circulating a document about this school. I was sent this document by the Indian Consulate, Sydney recently. I already had this document as it was sent by a student a few days ago, telling something contradictory.

It is not our concern whether this school is registered or de-registered. VETAB and DEEWR can sort this out themselves.

VETAB has its role only up to the registration or lack of registration based on the training standards or lack of it. That is what VETAB is saying. They say that further actions have to be taken by other agencies. These are Fair trading Dept, DEEWR/ESOS and Australian courts.

I think it is not a correct view.

VETAB and DEEWR, both, have a duty of care and have a moral/legal responsibility to to help students in getting a fair treatment because,

1. students came to Australia, knowing that these agencies would look after the quality issues and standards,

2. students had an expectation of fair dealing from these agencies when they complained,

3. students had complained to VETAB/DEEWR well before they either left the school or forced out of the school.

Students complained to these agencies in 2008 but not much was done except passing the buck between these agencies. VETAB became serious only after we and students met Hon Mr Peter Primrose, Hon Ms Helen Westwood, Hon Ms Verity Firth, Minister of Education’s senior advisers and others in April/May 2009.

We ask;

1.  that VETAB/DEEWR get involved actively in the matters of these students and put sufficient pressure on this school to resolve the matter quickly.

2.  that VETAB/DEEWR encourage the school to use the services of a suitably trained mediator/conciliator to help resolve the problems.

These students are going through a very difficult time in Australia. Some of them have left Australia and others are still here.

We want the VETAB/DEEWR to know that we are willing to be the bridge between the school and the students. We deal with them regularly and know how difficult it is for them. We do however admire them for their resolve to fight against the injustice.

Injustice, they have suffered undoubtedly. We will fight along side them, no doubt because it is the right thing to do. 

They deserve a “Fair GO” from VETAB/DEEWR/ESOS/Australian media.

VETAB/DEEWR/ESOS, Please act fast!

Would the ministers in charge of these bodies [Hon Ms Verity Firth and Hon Ms Julia Gillard] please look into the plight of these students?

Dr Yadu Singh/06-09-09

AISA and FISA must work together for students:interact, communicate and co-ordinate with the Indian community too!

Dear AISA and FISA leaders,

We ask that you;

1. work together,

2. interact, communicate and co-ordinate with the us [Indian community] as we are also a significant stake holder,

because you would have a better results for the international students if you follow these principles.

We ask you to please;

1. stay away from those who have a conflict of interest in the students’ matters,

2. be aware of the agenda of those so called “leaders” who are directly benefiting from students related matters,

Our Indian students need the help, support, encouragement, mentoring and leadership which can be provided if we all work as an effective and efficient team.

They have a right to have a quality training and freedom from exploitation. They have paid the money for it.

We can do it and lets do it.

Dr Yadu Singh/-6-09-09

Stirling College students need urgent help from DEEWR

Dear DEEWR authorities

After the collapse of the Stirling College in Sydney, we understood that these students were going to be placed in alternative colleges within 28 days. This was the promise which was made by ACPET. 

More than 28 days have passed but the promise has not been fulfilled. We further understand that their matter is now with DEEWR/ESOS.

These students are desperate, frustrated and disappointed because;

1. their money has been taken but they have not received the appropriate training,

2. there is uncertainty about their training and future,

3. there is uncertainty about the plan of action by the DEEWR/ESOS.

We are worried that this desperation may go out of hand for some students. They have invested a big amount of money in their courses and things are going out of control.

We ask DEEWR/ESOS to help these students quickly;

1. by acting speedily in arranging an alternate placement of all students including students of community welfare in Sydney/NSW.

2. by helping these students get the certificates, transcripts and other relevant documents/records from the administrators of this college

3. by doing everything to look after the health and Visa  needs of these students until the mess is sorted out.

4. by nominating a “Nodal person” from DEEWR to deal with the matters of the students of  the failed Stirling college.

5. by refunding the full fees under Tuition Assurance Scheme if alternate placement is not possible.

Students of community welfare chose Sydney as the place to have their training. The alternate placement must be in Sydney. Some of them have their jobs in Sydney [for the entitled hours as per the the Visa conditions].

We request Minister Ms Julia Gillard and NSW Premier, Mr Nathan Rees to please direct the relevant people to act in a speedy manner in these matters.

Dr Yadu Singh/06-09-09

Media Grandstanding would not help Indian students in Australia:comments on FISA’s 10 point charter.

MEDIA grandstanding must stop: FISA is making impractical and irrelevant demands.

We are concerned about impractical and irrelevant demands which FISA seems to be making. We have seen their 10 point charter and considered it carefully. We see some serious problems in their thought-process and offer following response point by point;

1)  Free two weeks board to welcome Indian students:
If Melbourne’s 100,000-strong Indian community gave each student 2 week’s free boarding it would help them find their feet in a new country. (Note: the City of Darwin has launched borders without borders program with the general Australian community along these lines. Sure the Indian community can help with free accommodation). Together we can help students settle easily as many professional Indians have large homes with empty rooms.

 

OUR RESPONSE:  It is not practical and realistic to expect established Indian Australians to provide boarding for any number of weeks to Indian students. How can one provide such boarding when they do not even know them? There is no justification for such a ridiculous suggestion.   FISA’s suggestion is nothing but media grand standing. This type of suggestion is not going to solve the accommodation issues which students face in Australia.  It is our belief that education providers who make money from these students must arrange accommodation for the initial 3-6 months at a market cost. This would allow these students to get used to the system here and give them sufficient confidence to be able to find the appropriate rental accommodation.

2)     Donate to the FISA victims of crime fund
Indian migrants are one of the richest migrant groups in Australia. Indian businesses and professionals can afford to donate generously to the FISA victims of crime fund so that victims like Sravan Kumar who was savagely attacked in his home in Glenroy are looked after properly.

 

OUR RESPONSE: FISA is not able to think beyond media grand standing. Any Victim of crime fund will never have sufficient money to cover the medical expense of the nature which Sravan Kumar needs. The ICU fees for one day could be something like $5000 and it could go for more than $100000 for one victim. No community can and will be able to arrange funds of this nature. Making such suggestions is completely unrealistic. Expenses on the treatment for a Victim of crime must be covered by the Gov/Medicare which is the case with the Victim of petrol bomb attack in Sydney. We believe that every student must maintain valid, appropriate and current medical cover insurance for a situation when they need treatment due to injuries or illnesses. This is not the case with many students presently. Ongoing and current medical cover insurance must be a condition for the continuation of the VISA.

 

 

 

3)    Free medical checkup from Indian doctors
The local Indian community has thousands of medical doctors and medical specialists. By offering free medical checkups to students we can ensure they are looked after health wise while they are here. This will also ensure a point of contact that is badly needed.

 

OUR RESPONSE: Medical doctors will/do provide free medical check-ups in some situations but this is not going to be the solution which FISA seems to be suggesting. Medical doctors cannot provide free treatment in case of admissions in ICU etc and cannot provide free medicines. As before, FISA’s suggestion is completely unrealistic and is indicative of media grand standing.  Again, we believe that every student must hold a valid, current and appropriate medical cover insurance while in Australia and this must be a condition for their VISA. If they have this cover, they do not need to depend on the charity from anyone.

4)    Free legal advice from Indian lawyers
the local Indian community has thousands of lawyers. By offering free legal service the established Indian community can help students on critical issues. Indian lawyers could also join together to lodge human rights cases against Victorian and Australian governments, education institutions and immigrations agents who are ripping off many students with false claims and promises. Lawyers could also help lodge disputes for unfair treatment and discrimination at work.

 

OUR RESPONSE: Free legal assistance from Indian Australian Lawyers and free service from every Indian Australian for our students would be great but is not going to happen. This suggestion is completely impractical and unrealistic. Our students are getting ripped off by so many and they include agents in India, some education providers  and some immigration agents but we cannot see that our lawyers or other professionals would provide free services at all times. We believe that Federal Gov must establish an Ombudsman immediately to deal with these issues. Decisions from the Ombudsman cannot be challenged in a court. FISA must stop media grand standing. 

5)    More student Hotlines in all Indian languages
we need all community groups to chip in and establish hotlines in all Indian languages. These need to be staffed with qualified counselors. Most students look to the Indian association that speaks their language. Few have heard of FIAV or other umbrella groups.

 

OUR RESPONSE: Helpline should be in English language and not in Indian languages. All students are able to speak and understand English which is a condition of their VISA. Our students need to integrate. Nobody is going to start help lines in all Indian languages. It would be impossible to arrange funding for such ridiculous ideas.  We leave FISA and FIAV to sort out their turf war in Melbourne. What is the stand of FISA in Sydney where they are part of an umbrella group but not chairing the students’ committee of that umbrella group? They were nowhere to be seen when our committee and that umbrella group held a combined meeting recently. Despite FISA and that Umbrella group’s public stand against the Rally in Sydney, they did not follow their words.

6)    Safety watch committees 
Local established Indian groups could adopt a station to provide community or neighborhood watch committees. If middle class and educated people are at stations at night then the risk of attacks will be reduced. Police are more likely to listen to wealthy professional Indians than students. In addition these safety watch committees can report back to Police and work to reduce poor lighting and other hazards at stations in the poorer suburbs.

 

OUR RESPONSE: Safety watch by established Indian Australians is not the solution. This suggestion is ridiculous. FISA seems to come out with immature, impractical and inappropriate suggestions. We do not need a parallel security apparatus for Indians in Australia. We are part of the same Australian community and our problems will need to be solved within the holistic approach to safety/security issues. We do need to put sufficient pressure on the Governments/Police to intensify the patrolling, under-cover policing and adopt proactive measures to stop the crimes against our students.

 

7)    Political power – the great Indian vote boycott
Established Indians have huge political power given that they live in large numbers in marginal seats in the Melbourne’s more affluent east. By refusing to vote for the major Liberal and Labor parties until action is taken to ensure students safety they can send a powerful message to state and federal government. Established Indians should boycott voting for major parties until students’ demands are met and their security assured. Politicians are power hungry and will meet our demands if they know established Indians are boycotting their parties. By boycotting both parties, we will also stop the state and federal opposition’s ‘political play acting’ and get them to vote for real changes in parliament for Indian students.

OUR RESPONSE: The suggestion of boycotting the main political parties is a crazy idea. We, in fact, need to join them and participate in the political process in Australia. We will be more effective if we join them. FISA guys, please get real. Indians in Australia do not subscribe to a victim mentality and we do not want any of us to adopt a victim’s mentality. We need to analyze, debate and formulate a proper strategy to stop the crime against our students. We must accept that some crimes will continue to happen as they happen against non-Indians.

8)    Public shaming of community rip off merchants
in many cases landlords, bosses, immigration agents and education institutions are ripping off our Indian students. Indian community groups need to name and shame these people who are bringing the reputation of Indians in to disrepute and exploiting Indian students. Each community groups could publish the name of ‘rip off merchants’ on their websites so that students know exactly who they should avoid.

 

OUR RESPONSE: Public naming and shaming of the “rip off merchants” from our or other communities is again an impractical suggestion. It would lead to legal cases and unnecessary legal fees and damages. No individual or association with sane mind will do the public naming or shaming. FISA guys, please get real. Yesterday, the committee of education ministers and federal education minister has announced a helpline which students can call if they have a complaint and they can do so anonymously. They will also be doing a rapid and effective audit of the “Fly by night” schools which have mushroomed in every suburb in Australian cities. These schools need to be audited effectively if Australia wants to continue growing the $16 billion education industry.

 

9) Free food kitchens across Melbourne to help students survive
many students are now unemployed or working for as little as one quarter of the legal minimum wage. (Note: The Sikh Temple in Blackburn in Melbourne’s east currently feeds thousands of students seven days a week and is happy to extend this to other suburbs. But we need more Australian Indians to help in southern, northern and western suburbs.

 

OUR RESPONSE: FISA should remember that they are students and not refugees. Temples should not be converted to Vincent de Paul societies. While community members are able to help on a case to case basis for any genuine or temporary situations, long term free feeding of students would result in too much burden on the local Indian community and might lead into negative effects.  Students are expected to have adequate financial capabilities for their stay in Australia according to student Visa conditions. It is not a bright idea to expect the Indian community and temples to provide free food seven days a week for the rapidly growing student population. In addition who is going to fund this type of “free kitchens for students?” and for how long?

 

 

10) Local Indians to support FISA demands
Established Indians can call their local MPs and lobby them to support FISA 10 point plan for better student safety.
Many Australian MPs are not scared of students because they do not vote and will not take FISA’s demands seriously. These MPs are more likely to address FISA’s student demands if the local voting Indian’s call, email and write to politicians demanding action on student safety. If Premier John Brumby receives 100,000 letters and Kevin Rudd receives 200,000 letters from local voting Indians then they will both act swiftly on Indian student safety.

 

OUR RESPONSE: This is nothing but a cheap publicity stunt and a copy cat of typical Indian politics carried out in Australia in the name of student issues. Both Australian Government and the Indian Government have agreed at the Prime Minister level to take immediate measures addressing student concerns including safety related issues. FISA seems to have run out of ideas in getting the local support for their “10 point” demands and it is a joke to think that Kevin Rudd will act only after receiving 200,000 letters. The Indian community will be a laughing stock even if a few members support this funny idea of sending mass mail.

 We urge FISA guys to think through anything before jumping with suggestions which are laughable and unrealistic. FISA guys need to discuss with others before going on media grand standing with half-cooked and ridiculous ideas.

 

Indian Consul General’s Community Committee on Indian Students’ Issues

Sydney, NSW

PS:[1] This was the response we gave to Indian Link newspaper which asked the committee to provide its response/views in regards to the FISA’s 10 points charter.

[2]Please note that the above-mentioned committee had completed its job and provided its reports/recommendations to the relevant authorities. It had then dissolved itself at the end of June 2009. The committee had communicated its decision to the Consul General on 1/7/09.