By Lisa Robinson
The City of Sydney Council hosted a free workshop for international students at Customs House on 24 April to teach them how to be safe on the street and in the surf.
Orla Burke, the Council’s city project manager, said the workshop, ‘International Students: Useful Information, Support and Safety Advice’, aimed to help international students have a successful stay in Sydney by orienting them and telling them about available resources, such as the Council’s libraries which have databases in many different languages, asking for police assistance and how to get help if they needed it.
“It’s about making people feel confident enough to engage in community life while they’re here,” she said.
While at the workshop, students had the opportunity to talk to representatives from the NSW Police Force and Surf Education Australia.
NSW Police launched the International Students Facebook page earlier this year to provide students with information on crime prevention. It also has general advice on a range of topics such as safe driving, catching public transport, avoiding scams, and weather warnings.
Superintendent Gavin Dengate, the NSW Police corporate spokesperson for international students, said social media is a great way to get messages out to all students.
“Our Facebook page reaches about 4,000 people every week. Ideally we want to reach international students and their families to reassure them that NSW Police are assisting students while \they study here,” he said.
Sydney ranked sixth in the worldwide QS Best Student Cities for 2012, published by British education specialist Quacquarelli Symons, largely for its combination of urban and outdoor lifestyles.
In 2012 there were over 110, 000 international student enrolments in NSW according to Australian Education International, with Chinese students making up 32 per cent.
Hiu Tan LAU, 22, from China, completed high school at a Sydney boarding school.
She said the hardest thing about moving to Sydney was the language barrier.
“It wasn’t until I’d been here for a few years that I felt comfortable with the English language,” she says. “Other than that, I haven’t had a problem adjusting to life in Sydney. I’ve always felt safe because I don’t put myself in dangerous situations.”
NSW Police also launched a Weibo account, designed for Mandarin-speaking international students, tourists, and residents, two months ago. The Police issue updates in both English and Mandarin to capture a bigger audience. The site already has over 10,000 followers.
Also speaking at the workshop was Jono Stock, national operations manager for Surf Education Australia, who advised students on advanced surf awareness theory, including how to escape a rip.
“We teach people to swim within their ability,” he said. “If they’re not confident in the water then they shouldn’t go in the water. There’s a big difference between being able to swim and being surf aware.”
According to the Royal Life Saving Society, overseas visitors are more likely to drown at the beach than at any other location. However, of the 284 drowning deaths in Australia between 1 July 2011 and 30 June 2012, only six (2.1 per cent) were international tourists.
“Sydney has some of the most amazing beaches in the world, and it’s an important part of the Australian culture,” Jono Stock said. “International students are going to visit our beaches, so it’s important to prepare them with surf negotiation skills.”