Monday, July 30, 2007

EATC India Workshop Update


My name is Amy Burton and I am the EATC Manager for PIER at International Education Services.

Registrations are still open for the EATC Workshop in India, which is free to attend and being held at the end of August. Registrations are open to junior and senior staff, with the formal assessment test also offered at the standard fee.

Several important changes have been made to the EATC India workshop, both in New Delhi and Hyderabad. Further details can be found on the EATC website, but it is important to note:
  1. The date of the New Delhi event has been changed to MONDAY AUGUST 27. This is because Tuesday has become a public holiday. Unless otherwise advised, all those booked into sessions 1, 2 or 3 will remain current.

  2. The format for the Hyderabad event has changed. All those registered for this event will be emailed individually in regards to this. If you are from Hyderabad and would like to attend the alternative event, please email me.

  3. The professional development (session 1) and formal assessment tests will be held at the Habitat Centre in New Delhi, with the Cocktail reception (Session 3) for the New Delhi event to be held at the Henry Lawson Centre at the Australian High Commission.

  4. Guest speakers for the New Delhi event will include staff from the EATC, AEI and DIAC.
Please keep checking the Workshop website for further updates and location addresses. We look forward to seeing you in August.


Amy Burton
EATC Manager
International Education Services

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What if a student goes missing?

Thoughts to consider

What may have happened to the student?

Further immediate investigation is required to ascertain the possible extent of the potential crisis. It is no good assembling the crisis management team until we have some preliminary facts to work with.

As Head of International Student Services I would: (not necessarily in this order)

  • Advise my line manager - Group Manager, Student Affairs of the situation, my plan to ascertain facts in this case and expected timelines.
  • Engage the assistance of an international student counsellor and administrative staff to make and report on their enquiries to:

    • Students landline, mobile, email address'
    • Faculty administrators / program coordinators,
    • Lecturers and Tutorial staff - in all enrolled subjects
    • Known friends
    • House mates
    • Class mates
    • Known religious, sporting or community affiliations
    • Employer

  • Drive to the students last known residential address with an international student counsellor.
  • Report on investigative work undertaken and results obtained to line manager with the recommendation to either assemble the Case Management Team or that the student has been located.
Who needs to be a part of your case management team?

  • Line Manager, General Manager, Student Affairs. (Authority / Guidance / Support)
  • General Manager / Registrar of the University. (University administrative / financial issues / family liaison)
  • Vice Chancellor or nominated delegate. (Head of University & important symbol of involvement / Television / Radio spokesperson)
  • Head of Media services. (Measured media control / Press releases)
  • International Support, Student Services team. (Leg work)
  • Representative of students Religious affiliation OR failing that, the Chaplaincy. (Guidance / Support)
  • Bi-lingual staff at university / trusted ethnic community spokesperson. (Translation assistance, if and when needed.)
What would you do if one of your students goes missing?

Author: Eileen Hjertum - PIER Online Diploma student

Staff assistance and cultural understanding requirements

Why would a staff member not feel comfortable with helping a student?

I would say staff members can ALWAYS be of assistance to students. However staff not trained in mental health issues should not, at any time, become involved in personal / family / relationship / academic stress issues. Staff should always be very mindful of their field of expertise - a meeting that seemed to have gone well and advice given that seemed to have been accepted - could have devastating outcomes. If staff are not trained in counselling and mental health, they should offer support to the student by referring them to specialist staff. Students can be reassured that counsellors are there to assist, and is what they are employed to do on an everyday basis (indicating there is no shame in working through these feelings / issues).

Staff bridge building with students can be done through joining and participating in International Friendship Programs or clubs, as these provide an "out of office hours" way shared cultural exchange, which can provide an ideal way to be seen as an approachable, supportive, and non-judgemental staff member.

How might a staff member misinterpret some of the signs of stress mentioned?

  • Marked decline in quality of work and/or class participation (other interests now that they are no longer under the watchful eye of the home community)
  • Frequent absences from class (Freedom)
  • Marked change in personal hygiene or appearance (this one is tough - I used to collect students arriving in Toowoomba on the week-ends from the McCafferty's Coach Terminal in Toowoomba - MANY a time, I would be greeted by a suit clad, clean cut, slick combed black short haired, neat and tidy student who would call me "M'am" - before two or three months have passed - that same student could be seen in jeans, t-shirts, "funky" hair, which could have blond streaks or blond, brown and red streaks, and now addresses me as "Hey, Eileen, how 'r ya?" The reason for the transformation - they have 9-10 months before they have to go back and visit Mum and Dad, until then - they are going to "let their hair down" so to speak.
  • Extreme dependency on academic or administrative staff. "Also a difficult one to judge - new students, in my experience, can imprint on admin staff like new born ducks. Trained / experienced admin staff understand that this can be part of the security the student needs as they are trying to adapt to the new country, culture, academic process - in this issue, staff coming along or encouraging to meet the student at various social events, particularly during orientation, provides opportunities to get the student into social support groups. Usually within the first week or two the student begins to let go of the admin staff's apron strings and settle into their new life.
Why might the student refuse to see a counsellor even if recommended to do so by a staff member?
  • Stigma that they may have a mental "problem".
  • The name "Counsellor"
  • Not confident of approaching the reception / administrative staff to try to make an appointment / lack of privacy in the reception area.
In the case of a student requiring personal counselling, I would discuss it with the student, get their consent, assure them I will go with them to book the appointment, assure them of complete confidentiality of the meeting and that no one will know which part of the service they are there to use - Medical - Doctor, Nurse, Health information, Careers and Employment, International Support - Social events, visa issues etc.

In the case of basic learning support - I would print relevant information regarding support workshops from the Internet for them and supply the dates, times and locations of support. Intensive learning support, I would assist the student to book an appointment at reception.

In your organisation, what does the staff consider the most difficult issues to assist international students with?

Author: Eileen Hjertum - PIER Online Diploma student

Coping with difficult incidents

Being particularly empathetic in nature, I think just about any critical incident would present it's own coping difficulties, if not during then certainly after, particularly depending on the outcome.

Horrifying circumstances:
  • Severe injuries to the student - savage assault, mutilation, burns, permanent brain injury or limb / mobility loss.
  • Murder /rape / assault of a student
  • Suicide
  • Injury, physical abuse or Death of a child
  • Violent death / Multiple casualties /deaths- eg: Shooting / bomb explosion.
Which stakeholders would be most affected and why? Again, the strength of reactions of immediate circle of friends / family / staff members and the greater community, will depend upon the eventual reason for the student being missing. Not that trauma can really be graded into lesser and worse case scenarios, but an injury or severe injury may not cause "as much" shock and grief in the greater community than say a violent death scenario (eg: An Australian version of the Jakarta or Bali bombing)

  • (Immediate) Friends (shock, loss, grief, anger)
  • (Immediate) Family (language difficulties, difficulty understanding process & procedure, grief, shock, anger)
  • Accommodation / Homestay provider
  • Housemates
  • (Greater circle) Class mates, acquaintances, students at educational institution, students at other educational institutions. (shock at events / outcome, concern for personal safety, anxiety, mistrust of others)

Critical Incident Management Team (being privy to perhaps more detailed information than others)

International Support, Student Services Staff, including administrative and counselling staff.(coalface support of CIMT, immediate friends and family of the student and greater community, depending on the incident.)

External Emergency Services (Police, Ambulance, State Emergency Service, Hospital staff - again - depends on the incident)

Religious affiliations (counselling and if necessary - damage control, particularly if a crime has been committed)
  • eg: we have not yet seen it in Australia, (thank goodness) but how would we cope / manage a situation where a student has been involved in a terrorist act - eg: London subway bombings, Madrid train bomb, Bali restaurant bomb etc etc. or
  • is revealed to have been involved with some sort of extremists group who's purpose is to harm?
Interpreters - needing to convey stressful messages at a time of great emotional upheaval.

What suggestions and assistance would you give them to provide support?
  • Memorial service invitation
  • Debriefing session
  • Personal counselling availability to students, staff and affected community members at no cost at the Universities Student Services.
  • Creation and issue of a pamphlet or brochure along the lines of UOS (2006) "How to cope with the effects of critical incident stress" with contact numbers for support.
What factors would make the incident difficult for you to cope with?

Author: Eileen Hjertum - PIER Online Diploma student

Factors, reports and prevention

Which of the factors listed may contribute to a student who goes missing. Explain interpretations.

Design issues / Inadequate equipment functioning.
  • automatically locking doors. Some archive storage facilities, some commercial fridge/freezers, and some older building that have retained old "bank vaults" have automatically locking doors. These are dangerous as often a person can be locked inside without being able to re-open the door. Our missing student could have been doing a quick task for a staff member and has accidentally been locked inside a device.
Lack of experience/ Lack of training.

  • At times mentors are used to accompany students on social events rather than staff. Although all mentors are provided with extensive ongoing training, their lack of experience, particularly if a stressful situation unfolds, could mare their decision making processes. In this instance, a mentor with a bus load of 54 bustling students, perhaps taken on a day bush walking trip / bbq, with a mini-crisis unfolding (say a student falls ill), may miscount the number of students that should be on the bus at departure time. Hence our "missing student" could be left behind - if the student was lost in the bush to begin with, this can become life threatening.
Inadequate supervision.

  • If the student was assigned a task and did not reappear following that task, staff ought to be alert to notice and follow up. eg: self locking door.
  • As with the bush bbq incident above - inadequate supervision of students.
Environment eg: floor / ground surface.

  • Not likely in Toowoomba with our complete lack of rain - but in areas that get torrential rain, flash floods - students can be caught unaware of the danger of crossing water covered roads - on foot or in a vehicle and crossing roads that may have significantly been undermined from fast flowing water. Some universities are located next to rivers, which may present other dangers - eg: canoing during a flood.
What preventative or corrective actions could address these factors?
  1. Ensuring all equipment, particularly doors are operational from both sides of the locked door (including deadlocks).
  2. Ensure mentors have a list of students that needs to be checked off when boarding the bus at the university and at the end of the event to ensure ALL students are accounted for.
  3. Ensure mentor have easily accessible contact numbers if any assistance / advice is required.
  4. Be alert to student delays / absences when setting them a task and follow up if student does not reappear.
  5. Provide students with a "Survival Guide" at orientation noting some local "danger" issues - whether that be driving into the outback without water, flash flooding issues, or sharks and dumper waves at the coast. Also provide Internet or poster information if a crisis situation is imminent - eg: Cyclone Larry - How to prepare for a cyclone / bush fire etc.
Have you ever encountered an international student going missing?

Author: Eileen Hjertum - PIER Online Diploma student

Cross-Cultural Considerations

What kinds of cross cultural problems occurred in these situations?

Situation 1*
The [International Programs and Services] office was asked by the director of the Malaysian Student Services office in Chicago to intervene with a county coroner on behalf of the family of a Muslim student. The student had been transferred to another hospital and had died there. Because the fire was arson, the resulting deaths were potential homicides.

The coroner in that county wanted to do an autopsy, which would have been a violation of Islamic principles. However, the case was made that the cause of death (smoke inhalation) has already been determined, so no autopsy was needed. The family’s wishes were followed with no interference in investigation procedures.
*Rabaey, J A 2001, ‘Explaining Cross-Cultural Differences at Times of Crisis’ in P A Burak & W W Hoffa (eds), Crisis Management in a Cross-Cultural Setting, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, pp.49-50.

The County Coroner wished to perform an autopsy on a male whom had died in a fire. The coroner may not have been aware that the deceased was of the Islamic faith or of the strong preference for autopsies not to be performed on Muslims without the family’s consent and only when it is required by law to ascertain the cause of death. In this instance, a representative of the International Programs and Services office of the University of Chicago was able to brief the County coroner on specific aspects of Islamic culture and as the cause of death had already been determined, there was no further need for an autopsy to be performed.

Situation 2*
At the University of Iowa, cross-cultural differences resulted in serious misinterpretation by the media and the community. A Chinese student and her two friends attempted to retrieve artwork necessary for her application to a Masters degree program, They saw a canoe nearby with the University of Iowa name on it. They grabbed it, understanding that they were University of Iowa students and this was university property, so they could use it. They got in and started down the rapidly floating river. The boat capsized. The students were floating down the river, holding on to the boat.

It was a very serious situation, made more difficult for rescue teams because of communication difficulties. The students were rescued. The news TV teams were there, taking pictures of… what they called the “joy ride”. The Chinese students were embarrassed because they had lost face in front of the community. The police arrested the students and had them stay overnight in jail because boating on the river was not allowed. It appears that the students were laughing when being rescued. The immigration specialist at the university intervened to inform the police that in ‘Chinese culture it’s proper to laugh when you’re really embarrassed.
*Rabaey, J A 2001, ‘Explaining Cross-Cultural Differences at Times of Crisis’ in P A Burak & W W Hoffa (eds), Crisis Management in a Cross-Cultural Setting, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, pp.49-50.

Communication difficulties between rescuers and 3 laughing Chinese women.
TV news televised the students ordeal branding it a “joy ride” “Joy ride” is a negative term that implies a deliberate, frivolous and thoughtless act. Dependant on the cultural atmosphere within a city or town, with regard to internationals, this type of media coverage could serve to invoke anger and racist responses.
Police arrested the students because boating on the river was not allowed and perhaps to “teach them a lesson” that joy riding, endangering rescuers, police and themselves, was not a laughing matter or acceptable in Iowa.

There were a number of issues that compounded against the three Chinese women in this example:

1. The University of Iowa canoe – IF boating on the river was not allowed, (the reason the girls were arrested), then why did the University of Iowa fail to secure their property in order to ensure people were unable to use it? Suggest chaining the canoe in a canoe storage rack. Possible Duty of Care issue?

2. Rescuers often face communication difficulties in severe weather situations – effective training is paramount. It is not sufficient to state the difficulties were due to language – over the roar of a river – any language is difficult to comprehend. Rescuers also need to be able to cope with sight and hearing impaired people – similar techniques should be employed when language is a problem.

3. TV media appear morally bankrupt. Sadly this appears to be a global initiative of poor journalism. Take a picture and add your own caption and darn the consequences. Actual research into events and obtaining background knowledge – in this instance cultural knowledge do not seem to get a mention.

o I wonder how people would have responded to the three girls if it was reported that the girls could have lost their lives and their laughing was due to being severely embarrassed due to the attention and community disturbance their river ordeal had caused.
o I also have to wonder what the story would have been, had the students died

4. Police arrested the students because “boating on the river was not allowed.” How was this conveyed to the students? Were signs erected warning of the danger? Was there sufficient lighting to enable people to read the signs? Was the swollen river a regular occurrence, say during spring thaw, that locals are fully aware of, but new comers to the district may not be?

Situation 3*
After a major fire on campus, cultural differences hindered the investigation process. Several [International Programs and Services] staff members noted that some of the investigative team members all Americans) were not aware of the cultural differences that caused them to be misunderstood by internationals and vice versa. For instance, one detective, in interviewing a Japanese female, continued to talk very fast, even though he was asked twice to speak more slowly.

The student kept her eyes lowered as a sign of respect, but an American interviewer could very well interpret that reaction as a sign of nervousness, or question avoidance, or guilt, or lack of cooperation.
*Rabaey, J A 2001, ‘Explaining Cross-Cultural Differences at Times of Crisis’ in P A Burak & W W Hoffa (eds), Crisis Management in a Cross-Cultural Setting, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, pp.49-50.

I will risk a generalisation when referencing the “American” detectives as likely Caucasian, as they continued to talk fast even after being asked to speak slowly. African-Americans and Native Indian Americans generally have a more methodical method of communicating, which does not require the “pauses” to be filled with words. Culturally they (as a collective generality) believe the responder needs time to consider the question and their reply.

Western cultures often attribute eye contact as corresponding with a persons level of honesty. At the same time, sustained eye contact can be viewed as being “cocky” and over confident. In the Japanese culture lowered eyes are a mark of respect, particularly to an authority figure such as the Detective. In Papua New Guinea sustained eye contact can, at times, be viewed as a challenge against the person with whom the eye contact is being made.

What needs to happen to prepare for the possible recurrence of these incidents?

In all three cases access to basic cultural information was critical. This was supplied by International Programs and Services staff members from the university.

International people coming into our localities are not always “just visiting students on a temporary visa.” As communities continue to diversify, increased knowledge and acceptance of peoples cultural norms are vital. I believe this is too great a task to be left to providers of education services to international students. All levels of government need to co-operate in order to produce a practical set of “generalised” guidelines in print or web form and ensure it is distributed and utilised throughout cities, towns and communities throughout Australia. If they can contact every household with a census document every four years, then they should have no problem ensuring every “stakeholder” obtains a copy of the guidelines.

Stakeholders could include:
Emergency personnel – Police, Fire, Ambulance, Bush Fire Brigade, State Emergency Services; Doctors, Nurses, Midwives.
Education providers – Prep; Primary; Secondary; TAFE; Tertiary.
Public Trustee
Offices of the Coroner
Funeral Directors
Legal firms (including Migration Agents) and
Australia Post Offices (As some outback towns only have a post office and a pub, both proprietors wear many hats of responsibility)

The Australasian Police Multicultural Advisory Bureau have an interesting website covering Policing and Diversity issues.

The APMAB have created “A Practical Reference to Religious Diversity” June 2005 First Edition available on the New Zealand Police website:

What cross-cultural problem have you experienced? Share it with us.

Author: Eileen Hjertum - PIER Online Diploma student

Preparing yourself and others

Consider this situation:

You work as a student counsellor in a TAFE institution on the Gold Coast. Last year one of your most successful and popular Japanese students drowned while swimming at a surf beach. This occurred during the November assessment period and affected the whole college. Many of the student’s friends approached your support staff for counselling and special consideration.Also, a number of your colleagues were subsequently affected by stress related illness.

What kind of preparations could be made for a possible recurrence of this event? What could you do:

Number 1 on the list – Have a plan.
1. Student records review.

a. What do we collect?
b. What don’t we collect?

i. Colour passport photo.
ii. Copy of passport
iii. Copy of Student Visa.

c. Why do we / don’t we collect information.
d. What are the obstacles / is the risk acceptable?

2. What is the USQ Critical incident policy?

a. Where is it located?
b. Who are the key members of any co-ordinating team?
c. Who is the media contact?
d. How are these people able to be contacted, after hours.

3. In the event of a serious injury to a student, requiring a long or indefinite hospital stay.

a. Who is responsible for the students personal effects?
b. Rental agreements, other bills, debts?

4. In the event of a death who can access emergency funds?

a. Are Student Guilds still supplying full insurance cover for students now that guild fees have become voluntary?
b. Who should secure students belongings, in the event of a delay in family arriving?
c. Are personal belongings to be stored on-campus or handed over to the Public Trustee?

To prepare yourself?

o Refer to “The Plan”
o Remain calm, responsive and strong (there will be time to deal with personal fallout (emotions) once the required actions are completed)
o Listen actively – understanding that people respond to shock in a multitude of ways.
o Speak in controlled / low vocal tones, clearly and slowly.
o Accept grief / shock behaviours and don’t be afraid to empathise. (A good descriptor of empathy is your pain in my heart)

To prepare your colleagues?

o Referring to Number 1 on the list – Have a plan
o Distribute / provide easy access to the plan.
o Provide a list of key contacts for each department or members of the co-ordinating team – including after hours contact.
o Provide a links to key resources.
o Train for the plan.
? Assist staff to be aware of common psychological reactions, including post traumatic stress.
? One of the PIER resources noted: This is a great site to understand the effects a critical incident can have on all.

To minimise the risk?

o When meeting to plan activities, consider what risks the students are likely to be exposed to.
o Further seeks to consider risks that may not be immediately obvious due to ‘local or common knowledge’. Local or common knowledge may be completely unknown to foreigners and Australians not familiar with the particular environment. Eg: Outback rural people holidaying at the Gold Coast for the first time.
o For visits to the Gold Coast

- basic instructions provided on the bus when you have the students attention are beneficial.
- A5 handout (pictorial concepts are ideal) noting:
- Lifeguard
- Flags – Swim between the flags.
- How to signal for help
- How to survive rips, surf boards and body surfers.
- Things that bite and sting (blue bottle jellyfish and sharks)
- Shark alarm
- Wear a hat, sunscreen and t-shirt
- Drink plenty of water
- Attending staff member / volunteers mobile phone number.
- Bus departure time (and street name if possible)

To deal with any cultural issues that may exist?

o If general cultural issues are not covered in “the plan” contact local (Gold Coast and Hometown of University) ethnic groups who may be able to assist.
o Where possible involve friends of the deceased / critically injured, this may be quite emotional for all involved but may also assist friends to go through the grieving process by ensuring appropriate cultural protocols are followed.

What could you not prepare for?

o The human factor.
o At times, no amount of risk awareness will quash bravado or the “having fun” element of life.
o People are human, sometimes no amount of training will guarantee a person will be able to function in a real crisis. Training helps prepare – it does not guarantee follow through.
o Misunderstanding culture with generalities. Eg: If a person comes from England, are they western minded and / or likely to be Christian? (Perhaps this one could be scratched off, if student records recorded ALL student details as noted in Number 1 above.)

How do you prepare yourself and others for unexpected situations?

Author: Eileen Hjertum - PIER Online Diploma student

Monday, July 2, 2007

Discrimination in International Education

What would be an example of indirect discrimination?

In classroom or workplace Favouritism, against to a particular race. On the grounds of race can occur when a rule or practice exists that appears neutral but in fact has a detrimental effect on persons of a particular race.

What is an example of a practice or behaviour that is not inclusive?

Discriminate by sex, marital status, religion, language, ethnic background, country of origin and disability.

Do you think an education institution in Australia would refuse an application for enrolment based on race? Why or why not?

An education institution in Australia would refuse an application for enrolment based on race is unlawful under the state and government legislation and discrimination. The Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975 also makes discrimination on the ground of race unlawful in employment and education.

Please share your opinion. Have you experienced discrimination against international students?

Author: Rajani Rameswaran - PIER Online Diploma student