Against the backdrop of attacks on Indian youths, a key inter-governmental forum in Australia has announced a slew of initiatives, including setting up of an information portal, to improve safety and well-being of international students.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) said the measures will be implemented under its International Students Strategy for Australia (ISSA) that will include a central portal to provide students with up-to-date information on personal safety, student support services, housing, workplace rights and other useful information.

Apart from that, it will include a national strategy to improve connections between students and the communities they live in and an international student committee to give students a forum to put forward their views on their experiences in Australia.

There will also be an independent statutory complaints body which will be mandatory for international providers and task forces in each state and territory to ensure students are provided with proper support in the event of a provider’s closure.

The measures were announced against the backdrop of a series of attacks on Indian students since June last year.

Twenty-one-year-old Nitin Garg, who died in January, was the first victim of such assaults this year.

Welcoming the COAG move, Education Minister Julia Gillard said the strategy would complement the findings of the Baird review to ensure that Australia remains a world leader in the international education sector.

The new agreement will benefit over 434,000 students from 190 countries worldwide who are currently living and studying in Australia, according to an official statement.

Measures already introduced by the Government include a nationwide audit of education providers and a requirement for them to re-register their courses under tighter new criteria in 2010.

Ms. Gillard also welcomed a decision by Australian Police Commissioners to share initiatives designed to ensure student safety and improve the dissemination of information to stakeholders.

The final International Students Strategy for Australia will be released by COAG — which comprises the Prime Minister, State Premiers, Territory Chief Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) — in the coming weeks.

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