Last month the ACT Government partnered up with the Feds to launch Think Before, an online campaign to increase international student safety awareness in Australia.
The unique campaign centres on an animated character called “George” in a rather groundbreaking way to approach policing problems in Australia.
Canberra is a pretty safe place for international students, but member of the ACT Legislative Assembly, Mary Porter, points out the campaign was born in Melbourne, which has a history of violence against international students.
“We’re lucky we live in such a safe city, a very open, airy, safe place to live and work,” Porter said.
“However we do know there have been some incidents in other areas, it’s come out of Victoria.
“The police were actually concerned about ways they could work with young people to make them feel safer and to alert them to things they shouldn’t do that would maybe expose them to unsafe situations and they were struggling to find a way.
“Fortunately in Sydney at a conference they met Larry Anderson from the International Television Service and he is right in to social networking and he suggested social networking was the way to go.
“The Victorian Police hadn’t seen any other way of doing it and this was completely new to them.
“I just think it’s quick, simple messages that can be on people mobile phones as text messages and Facebook and Twitter as well as other things we use these days to enable students to be more aware and in several languages as well, so it’s in the languages they’re familiar with.
“This little animated figure called George places himself in harm’s way a lot and this is to point out what you shouldn’t do and give examples of what you should do.
“It is hoping to get the message out that these are the kinds of things you need to do to keep yourself safe in a different country.”
Porter says in 2009 there were 10,500 international students at various educational institutions in the ACT. 10,000 at universities and 500 at colleges and high schools. Across Australia there are 650,000 overseas students.
“Nowhere’s an island,” Porter said. “If you get a good idea in you should share it around.”
Porter argues online campaigns are the way of the future for the ACT Government.
“For us to be using this as a Government it’s quite unique for us to be using this animated way of introducing the message to these students. But I believe more and more we’re going to be doing this,” she says.
“For instance, the Government’s going to be looking at how we can get our consultation message out and we’ve started doing that in the way of putting things up on Facebook and trying to consult about various initiatives that we’re actually undertaking.”