Sydney: Australia’s new race discrimination commissioner has said that she is concerned about international students working as cleaners being subjected to racism.
Many of the students are employed by subcontractors to work at the nation’s shopping malls, and Helen Szoke said that companies need to remember their obligations.
Speaking in Melbourne on Tuesday at the launch of a report into overseas students working as cleaners, Dr Szoke said they were vulnerable because they often don’t feel they are entitled to the same rights as Australian workers, news.com.au reports.
“To hear the extent of racism is a particular concern. Racism has such a damaging impact on people who are supposed to be welcomed into our country and making the most of being here,” she said.
According to the report, the report by Victorian TAFE International and United Voice, the cleaners’ union, said that unscrupulous subcontractors were subjecting international students to bullying, poor wages and extreme workloads.
"We know international students are subject to exploitation and discrimination. We know that other than those students from Europe and America, the others are very reluctant to report where they feel they are being exploited," Dr Szoke said.
"We want international students to understand their rights but we also want employers to understand their obligations," she added.
According to the report, she said that as well as the human cost to vulnerable students, there was also a reputation cost to Australia, as seen after the attacks on Indian students in Melbourne in 2009.
"I`m disturbed that the research shows that Indians are being subject to particularly adverse racist conditions,” she said.
"It means in this kind of culture of subcontracting, there hasn`t been enough of a light shone on how damaging racism is," she added.
She urged the Shopping Centre Council of Australia to help stamp out bullying and discrimination where their subcontractors are involved, the report added.