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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 4 August 2021) . . Page.. 2324 ..

Not having access to these government resources impacts the ability of multicultural groups to support advocacy, outreach and cultural connection. In particular, the groups with the greatest need are often the newest and the least aware of how the government can support them. For this reason, we are calling on the government to commit to increasing the accessibility of grants to multicultural community groups through increasing the ability of peak bodies to auspice small grants with minimal barriers to entry for newly established groups, as well as running sector-specific information and training sessions for grant applications. We look forward to hearing, at the end of the reporting period, how these initiatives have enhanced participation in democratic and grants processes.

I would now like to talk about supporting connections to culture. Canberra is uniquely positioned in Australia. Given the size of our population, we have a surplus of riches and opportunities in this space. Firstly, we are home to nearly 80 embassies and high commissions. We are also home to the federal government, where many roles require an understanding of other cultures and languages in order to be able to do those jobs. This means we are blessed with many multicultural communities with a strong identity, mixed with a population that recognises and celebrates the diversity in cultures and languages.

This is a unique and valuable resource for Canberra and Australia. The seven-year-old learning Mandarin in a community languages class today may, in 20 years time, be serving as a diplomat in Beijing. The children raised in a home environment that speaks Swahili may in future help establish business links between Australia and Africa. An understanding of different religions helps Australian and ACT governments to develop and implement tailored and nuanced policies.

The best practice guidelines call for newly arrived individuals and communities to be supported to preserve their cultural identity and values. Again, you cannot share what you do not keep. If you do not maintain your culture, you have nothing to share. Our multiculturalism will crumble within a matter of a few short generations if communities are not able to maintain their traditions and languages.

The importance of mother tongues was noted and agreed to by the Assembly in a tripartisan motion introduced by Mr Alistair Coe in 2017. Many colleagues still present may remember that motion and in particular how Mrs Kikkert and Ms Lee spoke to it in Tongan and Korean, respectively. There are around 170 languages spoken across Canberra. We are so lucky to have over 50 community language schools operating here. These schools help people connect with their cultural backgrounds, promote understanding and mutual respect among ethnic communities, and teach languages, history and culture to their students.

While it is great to see more students utilising our community language schools, it is important that funding continues to keep up with demand. This is one practical way that the government can actively support connection to culture here in the ACT. I am calling on the government to review the schools funding. The funding that supports students has not been updated in a decade. The ACT invests $90 per student into these schools. By way of comparison, Victoria invests $170 per student. My question is: how much value do we place on this language training in our community?

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