Page 137 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 13 February 2008

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families of Aboriginal people, we forced them to learn English and not to use their language. I believe it was even prohibited to use their language in schools at a certain time in our history. That is shameful, and I believe we have turned around from that.

Last year we were blessed—I will use these resources more when I speak substantively to my motion—in that we had a Canberra region languages forum here. We had very broad ranging discussions with passionate people, teachers and advocates for language, teaching language and learning. I will talk about schools later, but we need to remember that we have many, many people in our community who come from bicultural families and bilingual families. In Melbourne, for instance, workshops are run for parents who are bringing up their children in more than one language. There is absolute desire for families to partake in these. For instance, last year 250 parents took part in workshops, and many had to be turned away. It just shows that there is a hunger out there. Thank God for the passionate societies, the friendship societies and others, who keep languages alive in our society.

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. In European countries it is a policy that all children should do two languages other than their first language, and this applies in many Asian countries as well. In Canberra we do have part-time vocational language courses with the CIT; we have the University of Canberra, we have the ANU and we have the U3A. But with 19 per cent of our residents speaking a language other than English at home, we clearly have many resources in our community to extend this as a living, learning experience. It should not be confined to schools. Thanks go to the people who put all that work—voluntary, of course, as usual—into running our 40 ethnic schools where 30 languages are taught. We would like to see some recognition of those learning outcomes perhaps in the more formal record of education. This is one of the things that the forum proposed.

A great number of ideas have been put forward. I am sure that the minister has been talked to by the people who ran the languages forum, but we need to seek strategies to enable multilingual Australians to help monolingual Australians take part in their multilingual Australia. Too often it is the other way. We are looking for people to teach English to newcomers to Australia. Let us turn it around and see how we can all work together to extend our understanding of languages across our primarily monolingual, chauvinistic English community.

MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for the Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Housing and Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (11.28): Mr Speaker, I particularly welcome this motion from Ms Porter. I think it is a very important motion. We need, however, to revisit some of the wording of it, because I do not know whether Mrs Dunne actually read it or whether she just decided that it was time to discuss the issue around teaching of languages in our government schools, which is only part of the issue. The motion is:

That this Assembly recognises the important role languages play in maintaining the diverse cultures that enrich our multicultural way of life, in this the International Year of Languages.

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