Work in fright: assault in store on the ‘graveyard shift’

The need to earn enough to get by in a foreign land – Australia – is forcing international students to spend hours alone in a danger zone. Faraz Haider explains.

A university student who works part-time at a service station has revealed he is scared of working the “graveyard shift”, from midnight to 7am, after a violent attack on his friend.

Tushar Bassi, 22, came from the Indian capital, New Delhi, two years ago to study Information and Communication Technology at Swinburne University.

“In my vacations, when I was allowed to work full-time, I used to work, like, five days, six days a week,” he said. “I generally work weekends as the pay is higher.”

His first job was at a service station and since then he has worked for the same company, paid at the award rate.

The Indian student now fears working the graveyard shift because his friend was bashed and robbed when covering for him one night.

“He was robbed, they took his phone, car keys, around 800 in cash, they took the cigarettes, tobacco and all that stuff –  around $3000 of stuff,” Mr Bassi said.

“…I do feel scared.”

According to official statistics, Victoria experienced an 11 per cent spike in robberies and a 14 per cent jump in “acts endangering people” – a category that includes assaults – between mid-2015 and mid-2017.

These trends are revealed in the latest report by the Crime Statistics Agency (, an independent body established by the Victorian Parliament under the Crime Statistics Act 2014.

Two of its purposes are the publication and release of statistics on crime, and to conduct research into crime trends.

Hussain Syed, a service-station owner, linked the increased risk of robbery to price rises on some items stocked by businesses such as his.

“During the time of price rises, the robberies increase because the robbers come and target the smokes, not the money or anything,” Mr Syed said.

The crime statistics don’t reflect those times when violence may not be inflicted but is threatened. Mr Bassi recounted one occasion when he had to call the police after a customer became abusive.

“He bought a packet of ciggies and didn’t have enough money,” he said. “He was asking me for a favour, ‘Just give it to me’. He was around $10 short. I said, ‘I can’t do it.’

“He went out and got the money and threw the money on me and said, ‘Keep the change.’ I felt bad at that moment. ‘Keep the change,’ he got furious and said, ‘I’ll smash your face.’”

“I wasn’t offended initially but when he started abusing personally, that’s when I felt offended and that’s when I started [answering back].”

“I work there to pay my bills,” he explained. “I think of getting a better job: it’s the first thing that comes to my mind.”

“When I go to my home I don’t think about … work, I’ve already spent the majority of the hours of my day at work.”

Mr Syed said he saw to it that new staff were trained on how to deal with difficult customers, and that it was important to update that training year on year.

But he indicated that staff must always be on the ready for trouble, insisting: “We can’t take on boys who don’t know how to handle emergency situations.”