An anonymous Crikey reader wrote the letter below and informed Crikey that they will be sending it to the Department of Immigration. Our reader studied in Perth.

I’ve been forced to make this decision. I am giving up on Australia. I came over hoping to get a good education, work hard and learn the trade, become a resident and contribute to the hospitality business. But I can’t stay any longer.

Unlike me, many are staying. Not because their expectations towards their training provider have been met (after all, they weren’t expecting anything), or because they are here to fulfil Australia’s demand for cooks/chefs. They are staying because there is no need to work hard and learn the trade to get the permanent residency.

As a matter of fact, most of them don’t even bother working in the trade. Apparently, working as gas station attendants, security guards and fast-food workers is a lot better than working in a hot, fast-paced commercial kitchen. And perhaps their bosses don’t even know their employees are restricted to 20 hours of work per week as their visas state.

So why should they bother? Immigration doesn’t. Their employers don’t. Their school doesn’t.

The hospitality industry’s demand for cooks and chefs is never going to end, as far as I can see it. Not the way the whole international student education and migration system works. At the school I attended, training was pathetic. To the point I arrived at my “Select and prepare seafood” class and was presented with a can of tuna. Yes, it was a joke from my lecturer, because the school didn’t provide any proper seafood for that class. Eventually we got a couple of spoiled fish, an expired box of frozen mussels and a few rotten prawns.

“Dear Students, this is how your seafood must NOT look and smell like.”

But that just showed us how much the school cared. “Select and prepare game”? Some students now know people can actually eat meat other than chicken, pork and beef. Some.

By the way, I am still to see any reason behind the idea of putting inexperienced hospitality workers, that just finished a cookery certificate (and some have never stepped into a commercial kitchen outside school), and try to teach them management subjects. Might as well teach a first year’s medical school student how to perform brain surgery.

Why not provide international students the opportunity to go through a proper chef apprenticeship? Personally, I would love to do it. But I can’t. Or perhaps establish a proper cookery course for international students, that would last two years and that would be properly monitored by DIAC, with proper student assessments and a proper trade recognition scheme, that doesn’t provide some students the opportunity to pay a few thousand dollars for a letter that states they have 900 hours of work experience as a cook/chef.

Anyways, it must be of Australia’s biggest interest, somehow, to have inexperienced and poorly trained cooks getting permanent residency and working as security guards or as McDonald’s attendants.

Again, the way things are, students are still going to copy each other’s work at school and submit them whenever they feel like. They are still not going to show up for class on Mondays. They are still going to show up one hour late on the other days of the week. They are still going to work more than 20 hours per week. They are still going to get permanent residency, work at Hungry Jacks, send money back to their country and bring their family along three years later. They are still going to remain quiet, hoping nothing changes. Hoping DIAC, TRA, Department of Education and Perth Institute WA keep doing what they are doing.

But I am going. I am going away, and try to get my thousands of dollars back somewhere else. Do what I came for: actually becoming a chef.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey