[lg policy] Australia's largest migrant community organisation says it is disappointed with the lack of attention paid to multicultural policy in 2013.
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Thu Dec 26 15:52:59 UTC 2013
Japanese festival in Box Hill, Melbourne. (SBS)
Australia's largest migrant community organisation says it is
disappointed with the lack of attention paid to multicultural policy in
*(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)*
The Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia, FECCA,
believes Australia's image as a country that celebrates cultural diversity
has been undermined by what it calls the ugly political debate about asylum
As the year draws to a close, FECCA is also concerned about the direction
multicultural policy could take under the Abbott Government.
Michael Kenny reports.
Disappointment over multicultural policy in 2013
Australia's largest migrant community organisation says it is disappointed
with the lack of attention paid to multicultural policy in 2013.
2013 began on a positive note for multicultural policy when the Federal
Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Migration released a report in
March, describing Australian multiculturalism as a success story.
The committee, comprising five Labor, four Liberal and one Greens member,
said Australian multiculturalism stands as a good example to the world on
how to build a cohesive society.
The committee put forward 32 recommendations including the need to rebuild
Australia's research capacity in the multicultural field, review the
provision of ethnic specific aged care services and work towards improving
employment opportunities for migrants from a non English speaking
The committee's chairperson, Labor MP Maria Vamvakinou, said multicultural
policy must also reflect the importance of Indigenous Australians.
"Our challenge as a nation has always been to reconcile our Indigenous
identity with that of our modern identity. Australia is one of the most
diverse nations on Earth. We are, as I said, a country with an ancient
Indigenous inheritance and a contemporary multicultural society."
A submission from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils called for
a change to the legal system for Muslims throughout the nation.
But the report's Deputy Chair, Liberal MP Louise Markus, said the committee
rejected any move to implement Sharia law.
"The question of Islam was raised throughout the report and of course in a
number of our public hearings. As the report notes, the government and the
Coalition do support this. It has the consistent statement that the
implementation of Sharia law is not to be considered or implemented."
None of the 32 recommendations from the report were acted upon either by
the former Labor or the current Coalition government.
As the federal election date drew closer, both sides of politics made a
direct appeal to voters from culturally and religiously diverse backgrounds.
In August, then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told a Ramadan dinner in
Sydney, that he believed Australia's diversity was one of its strengths.
"I believe in the fundamental unity of mankind. I believe that the things
that unite us truly are more important than anything that divides us. This
must be so if the world is to prosper, if the world is to progress."
Having easily won government the following month, Mr Abbott scrapped the
position of Multicultural Affairs Minister.
He announced that multicultural affairs and settlement services would no
longer be managed by the Department of Immigration.
Instead, it would fall under the control of a newly created Department of
Social Services with Kevin Andrews the Minister, who would also be
responsible for aged care services.
Mr Abbott appointed NSW Senator Concetta Fierravanti Wells as parliamentary
secretary for social services with special responsibility for multicultural
affairs and settlement services.
Since taking up the new position, Senator Fierravanti Wells has praised
Australia's cultural diversity as one of its greatest assets and committed
herself to reviewing the way current multicultural programs are working.
"We are a country that has been built on its migrant experience. I myself
am a product of that. I've been brought up in a bicultural, bilingual
environment. I was born and raised in Wollongong. So as a country with a
migrant story, it is very important that we follow how successive
government programs have worked or not worked. What does work and what
doesn't work? And where do we need to put our resources and also take the
positives from where experiences have resulted in a socially cohesive
Labor's former Multicultural Affairs Minister under the Rudd Government,
Senator Kate Lundy, believes the Coalition's decision to scrap the
ministerial position shows it won't put a high priority on multicultural
"I think it's profoundly disappointing for all of those people who devote
themselves to that part of our community sector and are engaged in our
multicultural communities. We worked very hard as a federal Labor
government to lift both the status and the substance of the multicultural
affairs portfolio and unfortunately the Coalition government has taken some
pretty giant steps backwards."
Following Bill Shorten's appointment as Labor's new leader in October, he
appointed western Sydney MP Michelle Rowland as Labor's spokesperson on
multiculturalism and citizenship.
But the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia says it
believes both the major parties failed to pay enough attention to
multicultural policy during the federal election campaign.
Recently departed FECCA chairman Pino Migliorino says he is concerned over
the negative debate that has emerged at the federal level over the
treatment of asylum seekers.
He is particularly concerned over the direction the Abbott Government is
taking on this issue.
"I don't think you can have it both ways. I don't think you can go really
hard on irregular maritime arrivals and asylum seekers and at the same
time, reduce the number of offshore refugees from the UNHCR because the
federal government has indicated that it is reducing that number from
20,000 to 13,750. Something needs to give, something needs to be a bit more
humane, a bit more engaging."
Mr Migliorino has called on both sides of federal politics to support the
passing of a Multicultural Act by parliament over the next three years.
He says the proposed Act would ensure all future governments support
measures such as anti-discrimination legislation, a National Language
Policy and a National Accreditation Authority for translators and
New FECCA chairman Joe Caputo says a national language policy is vital to
assure a future Australia can communicate in a broad range of languages.
"I would hope for a language policy that really harnesses all of the
potential of the communities that are based in this country -- not just
taking up the flavour of the month* that's saying, 'We have to teach this
language because ... you know, China is the (key to) the Asian Century,' or
Japan, or whatever, but really taking them seriously. We need to have an
approach where we encourage languages right across the board."
And Mr Caputo says pursuing good services and care for the migrants who
helped build Australia over the past half a century will be another
priority for him.
"We are very concerned that, for example, in the aged area, as migrants who
have come here in the 1950s and the '60s are getting older, that we ensure
that we provide services for them so that they can live in dignity in their
At FECCA's biennial conference on the Gold Coast in November, another issue
that was raised was the lack of women from non English speaking backgrounds
on public and private sector company boards in Australia.
A federal government commissioned report was unable to say how many women
from non English speaking backgrounds there are in top jobs because of a
general lack of data.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick believes public and
private boards would benefit greatly if they better reflected Australia's
"What the boards are missing out on are the full range of diversity. One
woman in the focus groups just put it so succinctly: we're resilient
because we adapt to change, we understand a whole range of cultures, we've
moved from one country to another, so we understand a whole range of
cultures, we've moved from one country to another, so we understand how to
overcome barriers, there are all the things that women from culturally and
linguistically diverse backgrounds can bring onto boards and let's face it,
a quarter of the country's population was born in a country outside of
Australia- they represent consumers and shareholders, so if our companies
are going to be representative, they need Culturally and Linguistically
Diverse women on their boards."
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Ecoengine 17 hours agoOur nation's foundations were based on high
immigration rates, at a time when we had jobs and needed to build our
nation, and economies of scale. However, foundations are a base and aren't
meant to form the entirely of a building, and continue forever. The
problem with support for ongoing "diversity" and multiculturalism is that
it's become a tool to promote ongoing high rates of immigration. Already
our cities are feeling the squeeze of heavy population growth, and housing
has become the most expensive in the world. It's an oxymoron to promote
"diversity" and unity - a contradiction in terms. The migrant experience
is one that many Australians cherish and share, but it can't be used to
push us towards the potential toppling of our nation towards the unwelcomed
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