Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Salaam Australia

The land of the kangaroo offers plenty of options to Indian students to earn and learn. But the youth headed from Amritsar to Adelaide or Mumbai to Melbourne must choose jobs and courses with care, writes Inderdeep Thapar

IT is a Sunday and the gurdwara`A0in Melbourne, Australia, suddenly comes alive with young boys and girls as they troop in when the community langar is about to begin. It is here, in Blackburn, that a mini India exists, where its culture thrives among the scores of Indian students, who intermingle not only to ward off their gnawing loneliness but also to forge affinity as well as to exchange information.

The year 2005 has so far attracted about 21,000 Indian students, a sizeable number of whom are from north India, especially Punjab, though a majority are from south India. This influx of Indian students is a major source of revenue for the Australian Government.

So, what propels these youngsters to the land of the kangaroos? "A major attraction for the youngsters who head to Australia is the Permanent Residency status, which can be applied for after completing two years of study in thecountry," says Amrinder from Amritsar, who is doing his Master’s in Information Technology from Deakin University. Only one per cent of these students plan to go back to their native country. Like Jaiveer from Mumbai, who is pursuing commerce at Monash University and plans to go back after getting his degree.

Jobs and the city

Since the courses are expensive, after filling in the tuition fee of the first six months, most of the Indian students rely on part-time jobs to fund their further studies as well as day-to-day expenses. The Australian Government allows them to work for fixed hours in a week, 20 to be precise. The jobs are aplenty, provided one is in the right city.

A city like Melbourne has quite a few work avenues for foreigners. And Indians abound in fast foods chains like Subways or MacDonalds. But students who take admission in universities in the smaller towns face problems. They end up commuting large distances to the bigger cities for work and back to the university for studies, which is tiring as well as expensive.

"I have to come everyday to Melbourne, which is an hour away from Ballarat, where I am studying B.Tech`A0 as there are no jobs there," says Jasjit, who hails from Chandigarh. Tarun from Nangal and Sukhpal from Amritsar too are facing similar problems.

A.S. Gandhi“Mostly, students go through an agent and trust him blindly. To the extent of taking up whichever course the agent suggests, without even ascertaining its future prospects or their own aptitude”
— A.S. Gandhi, an immigration laywer
“A major attraction for the Indian youth who head to Australia is the Permanent Residency status, which can be applied for after completing two years of study in this country.”
— Amrinder from Amritsar, who is studying IT at Deakin University

Arranging accommodation

The universities accommodate students, girls as well as boys, for a few days after their arrival, till they are able to hunt for accommodation. There are scores of property agents who manage to find accommodation without any hitch. Usually, an apartment is shared by three to four students as it enables them to jointly manage and pool their finances. It also takes care of their emotional needs. These apartments are located near the universities concerned and are thus convenient.

As far as the safety factor is concerned, especially for girls, overall the Australian cities are safe so long as one observes certain precautions.

Students also need to be careful about not being misled while seeking admission to various courses.

As Amrinder Singh Gandhi, an immigration agent-cum-lawyer, points out, "Mostly, the students planning to come to Australia go through an agent and trust him blindly. To the extent of taking up whichever course the agent suggests, without even ascertaining its future prospects or their own aptitude."

Go for recognised courses

The agent receives a commission for every student enrolled. He is not bothered whether the student will get employment or not, whether the city is suitable or not, he just gets a student admitted for the sake of his fee.

Take the case of this graduate student who approached an agent for getting admission in an Australian university. Since the seats in the universities from which the agent was taking commission were already full, he got the student enrolled in an aviation course. Simply because a vacant seat was available in the agent’s quota. This student was stuck as he could not change his course for one year. In short, not only was the youth’s money ill-utilised, he also lost one full year.

Before joining a course students also need to ascertain whether it is recognised by the Crisco code the recognition given to education providers. If a course is pursued in an institution that does not have this recognition, it will not be considered valid nor will it fetch a job.

Points to be noted

Since the migration system works on points, it is important to know which subjects fetch the maximum points. As of now, the top courses for Indian students are accounting, hospitality (chefs), nursing, horticulture, hairdressing and the like. These courses can be viewed on a model list which is available on the computer. For this one should go to the website:, then search further on skill migration and trace on search for the model list. It is not much use to come to study information technology in Australia, for it has a surplus of IT professionals, though the course might fetch jobs back in India.

The government has made it mandatory for the students to work for 900 hours before they can apply for Permanent Residency.

Residency status not easy to get

It means that to get practical experience one has to work in a proper institution for nearly one month. Consider this. There are roughly 200 chefs who have done their theory and want to proceed for the practical training. But either they do not get absorbed in eating places for one month, or are paid abysmally low wages or even money is demanded from them for issuing a training certificate.

In short, the Australian Government is discouraging granting of Permanent Residency to this growing influx of students. "But the agents don’t impart this information to the students as it affects their business," cautions Gandhi.

Precautions for parents

The parents too should be careful about sending money to their wards in Australia. Sometimes, students seek finances from the parents on the pretext of course requirement. Parents must cross-check before sending a cheque, for some students take to drugs or other vices and keep taking money from parents to sustain these habits. The main problems before Indians wanting to head Down Under for education are misguidance and scanty information about courses and jobs available in the country. It is best to do the groundwork before pursuing any such dollar dreams.