AUSTRALIA: Man who attacked scribe in Oz an Indian

ABC News researcher worked as an undercover reporter for a story on migration and education scams

The Times of India
Thursday, July 30, 2009

By Meenakshi Sinha

The Indian undercover reporter who was assaulted in an inner Sydney suburb on Saturday has told an Australian newspaper that her attacker was an Indian who threatened her in Hindi.

"I'm just very, very appalled with the Indian media assuming that this was a racist attack. It was absolutely not. My attacker looked like an Indian person and I was threatened in Hindi," the reporter, a 28-year-old long-time resident Down Under, told The Australian on Wednesday.

An Australian journalist who was working with her on the investigative story gave attack's details to TOI on phone. "She was walking down a deserted street near the ABC studios in the inner-Sydney suburb of Ultimo when the attacker came from behind and hit her hard on the right shoulder and ran off. The attacker was wearing a turban she told me," says Wendy Carlisle, a reporter of ABC News's Four Corners show for which the girl was working undercover. This particular episode was called "Holy Cash Cows."

"She is deeply upset, shocked and frightened. Which is expected considering what she went through. She is well and safe though. Due to the ongoing investigations we are not at liberty to divulge any personal or additional information about the girl," the Australian journalist told TOI on phone. She added, "It's one of her own, so the attack is not a race thing."

Sources say that the girl was employed as a researcher but worked as an undercover reporter for a television programme on migration and education scams. The show was aired on July 27.

It is being suggested that the attacker knew she was working undercover. "I have reliable information that she was getting threatening calls prior to the show," says Amit Menghani, president, Federation of Indian Students of Australia (Fisa).

"Since the show's telecast, search warrants have been executed at the offices of a migration agent, Sanjay Deshwal," says Carlisle. This was done in a joint operation conducted by the Australian Federal Police, Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

The Australian education sector is worth 15 billion dollars, the third largest industry after iron and coal. The show for which the girl worked undercover exposed irregularities in educational institutes and agents involved in fake IELTS (Institute of English Language Testing System) certificates and work certificates.

The show revealed how dubious businesses and agents ripped off foreign students seeking vocational training and educational qualifications in Australia and how this led to a massive immigration scam. "After the show, the government has started auditing all colleges and institutes throughout Australia. It's also being said that whoever is caught in the scam, that person or college will be shut down," says Menghani.

Last year more than 73,000 Indian students went to Australia for education. Prompted by fake immigration and education agents, many were lured to enrol in cooking, hairdressing and accounting courses in the hope they would later qualify for permanent residency in Australia. The Four Corners show revealed how these students were being targeted with fake certificates and diplomas.