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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (23 October) . . Page.. 4049 ..



religious fundamentalism-Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Judaic; economic fundamentalism, as articulated through the WTO and similar institutions; law and order fundamentalism; and environmental fundamentalism. For us to have a pluralist society, we need to tolerate divergent views and be prepared to acknowledge the right of all faiths, beliefs and views to be expressed. For me that is a key feature of multiculturalism.


(Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (5.01): I of course reject absolutely Mr Pratt's accusation that the government is not doing enough to support Canberra's multicultural community. It is quite obvious, from both the motion and Mr Pratt's comments, that he is completely unaware of the sheer volume of work the government does and exhibits a significant degree of ignorance about a shadow portfolio responsibility.

The government is strongly committed to supporting Canberra's multicultural community. It takes this commitment extremely seriously and has been working very hard to meet it. The government gives a number of levels of support to the multicultural community. In the first place, it is support provided on a personal level directly to representatives and members of Canberra's multicultural community by me, my staff and each of my colleagues.

Indeed, the staff of the Office of Multicultural Affairs have developed very strong working relationships with the leaders of all of our multicultural communities. The office maintains an open door policy, and it is committed to supporting Canberrans from culturally diverse backgrounds. Mr Pratt's MPI and his speech undermine and belittle the contribution that each member of the Office of Multicultural Affairs makes to multiculturalism within the ACT.

In addition to that, there is a whole range of direct financial support that my government provides to the multicultural community, a far greater level of support than has ever been provided to the multicultural community by an ACT government. Shortly after coming to power, we implemented two new grants programs specifically for the multicultural community.

We recognised, unlike the previous government, the important role that Canberra's ethnic schools play in maintaining community languages and cultural traditions. We started a grants program-$50,000 a year-specifically for ethnic schools and the work that they do. In the first year of the program, 25 schools benefited from those grants, as have 1,400 students. That is support and assistance provided by my government that was not available under the previous government. There was no grants scheme.

We also introduced a new grants scheme to support Canberra's multicultural broadcaster, to a total of $100,000 a year. We all know how important communications are to emerging communities, particularly non-English speaking background communities that are not mobile and do not have English language skills. We have introduced a grants program to deal directly with the needs of those communities. The program started in 2002, and in that year 39 broadcasters received funding. In addition to that, we have $100,000 available to make grants to multicultural community groups to assist with projects that benefit their communities.

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