Australia: Is it a safe place for international students?
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Australia: Is it a safe place for international students?

Australia: Is it a safe place for international students?

Australia is the only continent covered by one country, and it is famous for the attractions of its large cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth. There will be many travel opportunities in this massive continent — head to the cities for a mix of cultures like no other or to its outback, where you can expect sunny beaches and kangaroos in the desert. To add to this, living in Australia also means going to many fun social gatherings under the sun (known locally as “slipping a shrimp on the barbie”) and taking advantage of its lively entertainment scene.

In relation to food, aside from their beloved vegemite, Australia offers a deep array of options to satisfy all sorts of palates. From the best in barbeques, to sweet lamingtons, meat pies to grilled kangaroo — you’re in for a range of delicacies in the land of the Aussies.

International students stand to experience all of the above and have the time of their lives. First, however, let’s answer the one question every international student (and their parents) have in mind: how safe is Australia?

With angry kangaroos attacking tourists, spiders with fearsome reputations, and baby-eating dingos, it can feel as if it’s a completely different and scary world. You can, however, rest assured that despite these reports, you will, in most probability, be safe and sound in the land “down undah”. Here’s a list of what you need to know, as well as the do’s and don’ts to keep you safe in Australia:

Transport

Public transport is reliable and widely used in Australia. Security officers and guards help implement maximum safety. In addition, good lighting and security cameras are helpful additions when walking in dark or secluded places. Still, the smart thing to do is to always be cautious as you would in any country.

If you drive, always park in well-lit car parks. That’s a no brainer. When leaving your institution at night, make sure you’re not alone and take paths that are brightly lit and frequently used by other people. 

On campus

Most education institutions offer security escort services or bus shuttle services after 6 p.m. You can contact your institution directly to see whether this could be an option. It would be a good idea to familiarise yourself with the security services on offer too — don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with the security guards and officers every now and then.

Research online and save your campus security number on your phone. Some institutions even offer mobile apps that provide a direct line for contacting security. There should be security points with emergency telephones you should never hesitate to use if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. 

Safety in Australia as an international student

A swimmer complete laps at Bondi’s Icebergs, in a stunning outdoor ocean pool perched in the cliffside at the southern end of Sydney’s most famous beach, on June 10, 2013. Source: William West/AFP

In the outdoors

With so many beautiful natural landscapes — just like you see in movies and documentaries Australia’s natural environment is definitely worth exploring. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to stay safe and be aware of the dangers. 

Only swim at beaches with lifeguards, and in patrolled areas marked by red and yellow flags. If you need help, stay calm and wave your arm to attract the attention of a lifeguard   he or she might be cute too (wink). 

If you plan to take on the bush by hiking, make sure someone knows where you are going. With technology nowadays, you can switch on the GPS on your phone —  and your friends can track you. Research the area you plan to trek in and check for any dangerous conditions. 

It’s probably a good idea to talk to a park ranger, lifeguard, or a member of staff at a visitor information centre before you decide to take on the wildlife exploration of Australia.

Mural of a koala in Melbourne. Source: William West/AFP

On the streets

What do mothers usually tell you? Always be street smart — these are the things they don’t teach you at school but apply to everyday life around the whole world. 

Make an effort to learn your way around the area you live in. Know the locations of public transport stations, taxi ranks, visitor information centres and police stations. Familiarise yourself with the roads if you plan to drive.

Crossing roads is something even a toddler should know how to do — you should too! A reminder, still: always beware of cars and other modes of public transport like trams. Jaywalking Down Under is taken very seriously, so avoid that too.

Keeping an eye on your belongings will minimise your chances of becoming a victim of theft. Make sure you keep your bags close to your body and do not leave them unattended. 

Take the time to learn some Australian laws, as they differ between states and territories. That way, you avoid getting yourself into trouble. An example would be that in most states it is illegal to drink alcohol in public spaces outside of a licensed venue. 

Online

International students often spend most of their hours online, either connected on their computers, mobile phones, tablets, or all three at once.. We all know the risks of online devices, and it is important to protect yourself. 

The upside is Australia is known to be a leading example in identifying online abuse, with its eSafety Commissioner website established to protect students and children online. Many Australian internet service providers also offer guidance, so check their websites too. It’s the same as anywhere else in the world — one can avoid spam, online scams, online bullying, and identity theft if you are vigilant. For more information, read more here.

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