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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 June 2018) . . Page.. 2122 ..

money does not automatically deliver better outcomes. I am not convinced that this government knows the difference.

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (4.47): I thank Mr Steel for bringing this motion before the Assembly today. I am confident that each of us this in this chamber understands the importance of access to a quality education and the role that such access plays in ensuring the growth and development of our children and young people. Mr Steel’s motion calls upon the ACT government to continue to invest in our education system. In the spirit of hopefulness, I suggest some areas where we could see future improvements.

As I have done on many previous occasions, I remind this Assembly of the cultural and linguistic diversity that characterises the ACT’s residents. According to the latest census figures, 32 per cent of the ACT’s residents were born overseas, with another 15 per cent having at least one parent who was born overseas. A non-English language is spoken in nearly 24 per cent of Canberra’s households. These figures are naturally reflected in the diversity that we find in our schools and highlight the great need we have to instil cultural sensitivity in our young people and increase the cultural competence of our educators. Without this sensitivity and competence the best schools still throw up barriers that limit the educational access available to students from culturally and linguistically diverse households.

To illustrate, I wish to relate to one example recently shared with me by a Canberra parent. This mother explained to me that in her family’s culture children are taught to respect anyone who is older than they are. This includes parents, principal, teachers and so forth. One of the ways that this respect for elders is shown is to never speak whilst standing up, as doing so is considered to be rude. Such children, upon entering the principal’s office, will immediately sit down so that they are prepared to speak. Imagine the confusion when they are told by a principal that sitting down before being invited to do so is rude. As this mother explained to me, kids from culturally diverse backgrounds often find themselves struggling to live in two worlds—speaking two different languages and having to learn to navigate two different sets of expectations so often resulting in misunderstandings.

Genuine cultural competence in our schools could alleviate much of the anxiety and tension experienced by these you people. Educators who truly understand the reality of cultural differences are better prepared to expect behaviours and the motivations behind those behaviours to vary from student to student. It seems like a simple thing, but assuming a student is acting in a way that makes sense to her or him is a good place to start. There are, for example, many different ways for a student to show respect to a teacher, and a trained teacher will recognise and respect those differences.

But cultural sensitivity in our schools goes far beyond avoiding such misunderstandings. In fact, research clearly shows that having a strong cultural identity is a necessary prerequisite to making social connections with others and developing a sense of belonging. In turn, belonging builds children’s self-esteem and resilience and reduces the likelihood that they will experience depression and anxiety. In other words, our kids need to feel secure in their cultural identities before they feel safe enough to fully engage in the learning process.

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