Indian students in Australia

Sunshine and Shade', a new documentary showing the personal experiences of Indian students in Australia, is set to be broadcast on public TV in India.

The film's director Ana Tiwari says she hopes to shine a light on the reality of the international student experience, away from the media headlines of violence and attacks in recent years.

In the film, a young Indian man prepares to leave his parents behind to study and work in Australia. They are clearly nervous, but his experience at university turns out well.

“There's a program run by the University of Newcastle called community connection,' says Kanishk Kumar. “Each student is allocated a local family, and this family mentors the student and really takes care of the student.” 

“I felt that we had heard a lot from politicians and the media had really sensationalised the whole issue, but I wanted to really get an inside look at what students really go through on a daily basis,” Ms Tiwari said. 

And not all experiences are good. Twenty-three year old Sharn is from rural Punjab, where her father took out a loan to send her to Australia. Struggling to survive on the maximum twenty hours of work a week allowed on her student visa.

Sharn needs to decide now whether will she stay and try to find work, or go back to her rural village and try to pay off a first-world loan from a developing country, in rupees.

A report issued earlier this year by the Australia India Institute recommended a one-year visa extension for Indian students caught up in regulation changes following the 2009 student crisis.

However with the December 31 deadline looming, a spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship says that as Australia's immigration policy does not discriminate on the basis of nationality, no special arrangements would be considered.

“I think one way out of it could be that they should be able to apply for perhaps a three-year working visa, something that the US model has been following in the past, where international students were given an opportunity to apply for a work permit for up to three to five years where they could work in this country,” says Dr Devaki Monani from the University of Technology in Sydney.

'The Australia in the Asian Century White Paper' gives some hope for a brighter future.

”I think international students are our link to countries like India and China. They have access to those markets, they have access to investors from those countries that have vibrant economies,” said Ms Tiwany.

“It is a shame that we are not valuing those students who bring so much to our country.”

After its Australian premiere at Sydney's Parramasala Festival, 'Sunshine and Shade' will be broadcast on public television in India.