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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 August 2010) . . Page.. 3856 ..

a statue of Mr Grassby in front of the multicultural forum appears to satisfy the need. The fact that $70,000 is spent on that statue but only $25,000 on something as important as the ACT community languages grant program highlights what we are talking about here today. I prefer the vibrancy that our international city has and feel that we should build on this rather than plan for a city that looks like a mausoleum of sculptures.

On the one hand, Ms Porter has been commending the ACT government on its commitment to bilingual education, and she would like us to join in that commendation. But on the other hand, there were elements of criticism in her speech on her motion about what actually has been done by this government.

In support of the motion, the government does need to show greater commitment to bilingual education in the ACT. And there needs to be more commitment to look into the viability of further bilingual schools in the ACT. On that point we do agree. We support Ms Porter’s motion about greater support for the issues that Ms Porter has highlighted but in a somewhat contradictory fashion.

MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Convenor, ACT Greens) (11.49): I thank Ms Porter for this motion today and for the opportunity it provides to discuss the importance of bilingual education. The ACT Greens have long been advocates for the learning of other languages. I have met with members of the ACT Ethnic Schools Association, with Dr Mandy Scott and with members of the multicultural community to discuss these matters. I have raised with the minister, through questions on notice, the need to work closely with our ethnic schools and other stakeholders in the ACT community to continue to improve language education in our schools. To quote Dr Scott:

… bilingualism assists conceptual development. Children who know and use two languages are often more creative and flexible in their thinking. They can ‘think outside the square’ because they are accustomed to using different ways to think about the same idea or problem.

Bilinguals are also more aware of the structure of languages since they can compare different linguistic systems. This helps with general language development, including listening, speaking, and literacy.

Canberra, as the capital city, has a number of multilingual resources, including embassies, government agencies, four universities, strong ethnic community organisations and out-of-hours ethnic language schools. We should be utilising these resources to the fullest extent possible to get the best outcomes for ACT students.

The Greens MLA in the Sixth Assembly, Dr Foskey, was a vocal proponent of bilingual—and multilingual—education in ACT schools. In 2008, coincidentally in a motion by Ms Porter, Dr Foskey stated:

We know that bilingualism is a way of learning literacy. If you are learning another language or learning to write, you are learning to think. It absolutely should be part of the core curriculum because it actually adds to all those other skills.

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