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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (29 April) . . Page.. 145 ..

Canberra Institute of Technology - English Language Courses

MS TUCKER: My question to Mr Stefaniak as Minister for Education is about English language programs the CIT runs for migrants and refugees. As no doubt the Minister is aware, funding for these programs will cease in June due to Commonwealth cuts, namely, the discontinuation of the job seeker preparation support program. As a consequence of the cuts, over 300 permanent ACT residents will be unable to access intensive English training. Other courses available are either full or not appropriate - for example, the advanced English migrant program or the ANTA programs. I am sure the Minister is aware how difficult it will now be for those people who require this assistance. Most of these people want to be able to contribute and to work. Many are talented and well qualified in their country of origin. I am sure the Minister is aware of the future cost to government of not providing this assistance. You may recall that I asked you a question on this matter in June 1996. At that time you did say that you would take up the issue with the relevant Minister. Could you please tell members of this Assembly whether you did consult that Minister and what the outcome of the discussion, if it occurred, was?

MR STEFANIAK: This is always a problem when the Commonwealth cuts any program which affects the States or Territories. Sometimes we have successes and sometimes we do not. You might have heard, Ms Tucker - in a not unrelated area; it is education - that I recently had some success in relation to the enrolment benchmark adjustment, which is a great concern for our schools. However, representations by the States and Territories in relation to English language programs were not totally successful. I might indicate to you, Ms Tucker, just what is occurring at present and what programs are available. You might recall that recently - in fact, yesterday - I presented a petition from a number of affected students.

The ACT Government already provides a significant level of funding to ethnic community organisations for a wide range of purposes. For example, we fund nine small ethnic communities under our current community services grants program to enhance their activities. That remains a priority. The Adult and Community Education Advisory Council has funded seven organisations for new training for adult students from a non-English-speaking background. Those programs are for job-related courses with an ESL component. That is a total of $39,000 for 280 students and 9,400 student contact hours. I announced those programs about 10 days ago, Ms Tucker. I can get you details of those programs if you did not happen to see any reports on them. On 18 March 1998 the VETA board agreed to the formation of a nine-member advisory committee on adult language, literacy and numeracy. The functions of that new body will include the provision of advice to this Government on the funding needs of adult language learners, including those with ESL needs.

In terms of Commonwealth funding programs, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs is continuing to fund adult migrant English program courses at CIT and has recently awarded CIT a $1.2m contract to continue the DIMA-funded component of CIT's ESL program. That program is for new arrivals. The DEETYA-funded job seeker preparation and support program funded under the special intervention program, or SIP, currently provides further English training for those who have finished their

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