The Question of Racism: How to Understand the Violent Attacks on Indian Students in Australia?

Michiel Baas

Abstract


For the past ten years I have been involved in research on the topic of Indian student-migrants in Australia. What started in India in 2004 with the ostensibly simple questions why there was such a surge in Indian students’ enrolments in Australia, turned into a study which had the question of migration at the heart of its investigation. Realising that the majority of Indian students based their decision for Australia on the relatively easy pathway the country offered towards permanent residency my research focused on understanding how such trajectories from students to migrants took shape. However, as I argued in Imagined Mobility (Anthem Press, 2010), while the propensity to apply for PR may be high, permanently residing in Australia was often not the objective. Instead many Indian students saw a PR as facilitating the start of transnational existence. In this paper I will draw upon a vast collection of newspaper articles as well as ethnographic material collected over this period in order to produce a personalised account of how I, as an academic researcher, observed the discourse about Indian students in Australia ‘migrate’ from them being welcome international students and would-be migrants to unwelcome profiteers whose place in Australian cities was highly contested. Questions I will focus on are: how did the violent attacks and subsequent debate about their racist nature impact the lives and trajectories of Indian student-migrants as starting transnationals; how did they themselves reflect on these attacks especially in relation to them now being ‘permanent residents’; and finally, what role do ‘Indian students’ continue to play in Australia’s skilled migration debate?

Keywords


International Students; Media Analysis; Racism; Violence; Indian Students; Indian Middle Class

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References


Baas, M. (2006) ‘Students of migration: Indian students and the question of permanent residency’, People and Place vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 8–24.

—— (2010) Imagined Mobility. Migration and Transnationalism among Indian Students in Australia (Anthem Press: London & New Delhi).

—— (2014) ‘Victims or Profiteers? Issues of migration, racism and violence among Indian students in Melbourne’ Asia Pacific Review vol. 55, no. 2, pp. 212-226.

Birrell, B. (2006) ‘Implications of low English Standards among overseas students at Australian universities’, People and Place vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 53–64.

—— & Rapson, V. (2005) Migration and the accounting profession in Australia. Report prepared for CPA Australia, (Centre for Population and Urban Research, Monash University: Melbourne).

—— Rapson, V. & T.F. Smith, T.F. (2006) Australia’s net gains from International skilled movements in 2004–05 and earlier years (Centre for Population and Urban Research, Monash University: Melbourne).

—— Healy, E. & Kinnaird, B. (2007) ‘Cooks galore and hairdressers aplenty’, People and Place vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 30–44.

Hawthorne, L. (2005) ‘“Picking winners”: The recent transformation of Australia’s skilled migration policy’, The International Migration Review vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 663–669.

—— (2010) ‘How valuable is “two-step migration”? Labour market outcomes for international student migrants to Australia’, Asia-Pacific Migration Journal vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 5–36.

ABC.net.au

-03-06 ‘Students threaten hunger strike after poor exam results’

-03-07 ‘Study highlights loophole in Aust skilled migration program’

-02-08 ‘Cash-strapped foreign students “struggling to survive”’

-06-09 ‘Would-be vigilantes patrolling Melbourne train stations’

-06-09 ‘Retaliation fears grow as students watch their backs’

-05-09 ‘International students target of racist attacks in Newcastle’

-07-09 ‘Police raid migration agent’s offices’

-07-09 ‘Call for greater regulation for migration agents’

The Age

-03-06 ‘More student protests planned’

-08-06 ‘Why these drivers are upset’

-01-07 ‘English skills row over foreign students’

-03-07 ‘Call for student visa changes’

-08-08 ‘Overseas students of “new slave trade”’

-10-08 ‘Reigning in rogue colleges’

-10-08 ‘“Sham” colleges operating with impunity’ (both in The Age);

-11-08 ‘Unlicensed agents luring students’

-12-08 ‘Overseas students exploited’

-01-09 ‘Migration fraud “rife” in overseas education’

-04-09 ‘Pressure to rein in “corrupt” colleges’

-02-09 ‘Indians told to keep a low profile’

-05-09 ‘Police visit India to brief students on staying safe’

-05-09 ‘Unis say they'll still rely on foreign students’ fees’

-05-09 ‘High-risk training colleges face new audit’

-05-09 ‘Our schools for scandal’

-05-09 ‘Rudd steps in as tensions rise over attacks on students’

-05-09 ‘ Indian students march in protest against attacks’

-06-09 ‘Fresh attack: Indian student slashed in Frankston’

-06-09 ‘Racism cry is the only weapon’

-06-09 ‘Ugly times, yes, but let’s not take the big stick to Victoria’

-06-09 ‘Attacks not racial, say long-time Indian groups’

-06-09 ‘Indians an easy target for cowards lurking in shadows’

-06-09 Anger at assaults: Indians rally in Sydney

-06-09 ‘Foreign students could be forced to leave’

-06-09 ‘Lifting the veil on our ingrained racism’

-06-09 ‘Street violence to blame, not racism’

-07-09 ‘Audit blitz hits “dodgy” colleges’

-07-09 ‘College crash strands 350 foreign students’

-05-10 ‘Canberra slashes occupations on migration list’

-05-10 ‘New migrant list will hit business’

-06-10 ‘Student drop hits economy’

-06-10 ‘Decade to regain foreign students’

The Australian

-01-07 ‘Overseas students fail in job language’

-03-07 ‘Punish dodgy colleges’

-10-08 ‘Licence to fleece’

-01-09 ‘Degrees still lure low-skill migrants’

-04-09 ‘Dodgy colleges exploit foreign students’

-06-09 ‘Police “punched” Indian protesters’

-06-09 ‘Blind eye to racism’

-06-09 ‘Foreigners hide crimes due to visa fears’

-06-09 ‘Indian attacks not racial – authorities’

-06-09 ‘Acknowledge this racism’

-05-10 ‘Hairdressers out as migrant skills list gets a trim’

The Herald Sun

-06-08 ‘Don’t treat them like cash cows.’

-06-09 ‘18 arrests amid Indian protest over Melbourne race violence’

-06-09 ‘Indian students leaving Australia in wake of racist attacks’

-06-09 ‘Australians struggling with multiculturalism’

Hindustan Times

-02-09 ‘Indian envoy to Australia apprises Krishna on attacks’

Indian Voice

Oct. 2005 ‘It's not easy being a taxi driver’

Nov. 2005 ‘It's not fun being a taxi driver. Racist remarks/abuses’

Dec. 2005 ‘Late Night Surcharge: Is it 20% or …?’

News.com.au

-02-06 ‘Illegal workers driving cabs’

Radio Australia

-07-09 ‘Australian politicians discuss safety of foreign students’

-07-09 ‘Australia works on policy to assist foreign students’

Sydney Morning Herald

-03-06 ‘Universities being used as immigration factories’

-01-07 ‘Unis open to students who fail English’

-03-07 ‘All unis playing migrant game’

-03-07 ‘Skilled migration a rort: report’

-08-07 ‘Plagiarism row: student decries uni standards’

-09-08 ‘Foreign students exploited’

-12-08 ‘Overseas students exploited as cash cows’

-04-09 ‘Overseas students abused by bosses, landlords: union’

-06-09 ‘Indian students want concession cards’

-06-09 ‘Indians should learn to treat their lower castes better’ Sydney Morning Herald 09-06-09 ‘Brutal Truth about Attacks’

-07-09 ‘India delegation to rescue lucrative student industry’

Times of India

-05-09 ‘India asks Australia to ensure security of its students’

-05-09 ‘Amitabh Bachchan turns down Australian doctorate as mark of protest’

-06-09 ‘85% Australians feel racism exist in Australia’




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/ccs.v7i3.4469