One of the scariest things about moving to a new country can also be one of the most exciting: anonymity. You probably won’t know too many people – if anyone – when you arrive and this can give you a feeling of freedom like you’ve never had before. Suddenly, you feel like you have the opportunity to be whoever you want. Without your family and friends around, you can reinvent yourself and perhaps feel less inhibited about the things that you wouldn’t dare do at home.
While this can be one of the most liberating things about studying in a new place, it’s important that you don’t lose your focus on your personal safety. While Australia is a comparatively safe place to live and has relatively low crime rates, you must still take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, just like you would at home. Looking after your safety, your health and your overall wellbeing is important, especially while you are dealing with the added stresses of being in a new country and adjusting to a new way of life.
Here are a few general tips to help keep you safe:
- Never carry large amounts of money with you. You can access the money in your bank account at most stores with your Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) card;
- Make sure you close the zipper on your bag so that thieves can’t reach in and take any valuables like your purse or wallet, mobile phone, iPod, etc;
- Don’t walk alone at night. Walk in a group and stay in well-lit areas;
- If you’re going out, plan your trip so that you know how you’re getting home, and make sure you have enough money for transport if you need it;
- Walk with confidence. Offenders target people they perceive to be vulnerable and who would offer them the least amount of resistance;
- Be wary of casual requests from strangers on the street, like someone asking for the time or money for a bus ticket. While most people will be genuine in their request, some might have ulterior motives;
- When using an ATM, prevent others from seeing your personal identification number (PIN) and secure your cash quickly in your bag. Don’t count your money on the street;
- Don’t let someone you don’t know drive you home. If you are the driver, don’t offer a lift to people who are unknown to you;
- Make sure your mobile phone always has enough battery power, or that you have change for a pay phone if you need to call for help. However, 000 emergency calls are free from any phone;
- Be aware of what is happening around you by continuously surveying your surroundings. If you’re listening to your iPod on the street, don’t turn it up so loud that you can’t hear trouble approaching, either from other people or from cars, trams and buses when you’re crossing the street;
- Always cross the street at pedestrian crossings (also known as a zebra crossing) or at traffic lights with pedestrian signals. Drivers in Australia generally don’t expect to have to yield for pedestrians in traffic;
- If you are living with other people, talk to them about setting some simple house rules, such as locking up the house when you are out, having friends over, when and what type of parties you will hold, your household policy on alcohol and smoking, sharing of any expenses etc; and
- If you are in a Homestay, you are fitting in with an existing family, make sure you clearly understand the rules of the household. If you’re unsure of anything, speak to your Homestay family about it.
Download the Student Safety Guide;
Personal safety at your institution
No matter at which school, college or university you are studying in Australia, you have every right to feel safe in your learning environment. Safety and security issues are likely to be covered by your institution as part of your orientation program. Ensure you know and understand all security and emergency arrangements at your institution and make sure you ask questions if something is not clear to you. Remember to always be alert, be aware, and be careful wherever you are, including in your learning environment.
Here are some tips for you to consider about safety during your studies:
- Make sure you who to contact at your institution for security arrangements;
- Ask about what safety/security arrangements are in place at your institution. Some of the things you can ask about include:
- What emergency response procedures are in place for emergency situations? (eg – a blackout, an evacuation, a medical emergency, a fire, a chemical spill, a bomb threat etc);
- What happens in these emergency situations (e.g. alarms, announcements) and what do you need to do? and
- Are there any other arrangements that are in place for students? (eg – many institutions offer security escort service for students for out of office hours or a courtesy/shuttle bus service).
Consider having a personal safety plan. Having your own personal safety plan means thinking about what you would do if you were faced with various emergency situations in your learning environment if they occurred. To help you put a plan together, it might be useful to talk to the security area in your institution, your classmates, your relatives and/or friends. It’s important to think about your personal circumstances when developing a personal safety plan so that it’s a plan that is suitable for you. For example, if you study after office hours, consider how you may need to adapt your plan to make it suitable for those circumstances.
Here are some tips on things to consider for putting together a personal safety plan:
- Do you have the contact telephone numbers of people you can trust and contact for assistance stored in your mobile phone? (eg – friends, relatives, local police, security staff);
- If you drive to your institution, where is the most suitable car park located to your study area? Is the area well lit?;
- Would you feel more comfortable carrying a personal alarm?;
- Should you use any security escort?;
- Where is the nearest public transport point?;
- Is the entry/exit door you normally use to your study area the safest entry or exit to the building?;
- When leaving your study area, should you pre arrange to walk with a friend or a group?;
- What is the safest path to use when walking to and from your study area? Is it well lit?;
- Does this pathway have overhanging trees or shrubs which may provide cover for other people?;
- Is there a public telephone within the vicinity? Where is it located?; and
- Are you familiar with your study environment? (eg – location of toilets or nearest public telephone).
If you are an international student attending high school in Australia you will hear a lot of talk about “Schoolies Week” which refers to the Australian tradition of high-school graduates (known as "schoolies" or "leavers") having week-long holidays following the end of their final exams in late November and early December.
Official schoolies events, which are drug and alcohol free, are held at many schoolies destinations and include concerts, dances and parties. For all official events, attendees are required to be a registered schoolie and present schoolie identification card (ID) on entry. This schoolies ID, which at some locations includes a photo, is given to schoolies upon registering, which requires the presentation of current school ID and incurs a small fee.
At many destinations, the official events are held in fenced-off areas or in nightclubs to prevent the infiltration of toolies ("too old for schoolies", that are associated with the targeting of drunk teenagers for sex) and to maintain crowd control. Some events are free while for others (often those held at nightclubs) you have to pay an entry fee.
If you are a school leaver and choose to be a part of schoolies celebrations, here are some good safety tips to keep in mind:
- Celebrate but watch your friends;
- Stay with friends and don't take chances. Remember there is safety in numbers;
- Plan ahead with your friends. Work out how you will share costs and how you will look out for each other;
- Book your own accommodation – don't expect that you can just stay with friends;
- Know where you are staying and how to get there;
- Before you go out, have a plan for getting home and tell someone where you are going;
- Negotiate a designated driver at the beginning of the evening and support them in their decision not to drink. During the week, take turns to be the designated driver;
- Stay clear of a driver who has been drinking or using drugs;
- There are official volunteers at these events who can provide support and advice. Ask an official volunteer to walk you home – don't walk home at night alone;
- Always keep enough money for a phone call, taxi or public transport;
- Don't accept lifts from strangers and don’t stay at a stranger's place; and
- Don't swim at night and don't swim at all if you are intoxicated or using drugs.
Read more about schoolies week at: