Page 152 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 13 February 2008

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ensure that the future learning needs of young Canberrans lead to rewarding and fulfilling lives in the 21st century and that these goals are met at all key stages of schooling in the ACT. I move:

Omit paragraph (2), substitute:

“(2) and notes that the ACT Government:

(a) has ensured a key element of the curriculum delivered in ACT schools is an engagement with other cultures through learning an additional language;

(b) is providing sustained and meaningful language learning experiences for students in ACT schools;

(c) has increased funding for languages in ACT schools and for professional development for teachers; and

(d) has mandated that languages are taught in all ACT public schools by 2010.”.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (12.18): I am pleased to be speaking to this motion. It is disappointing that we always see these motions completely amended or changed by the majority Labor government in this place, because I think it is a good motion; it is an important one and it is good that we have a debate about it. I do not think we should be afraid of some of it.

I want to go through the various parts of it. The first part, acknowledging the significant social and economic benefits of a multilingual and a multicultural society, I wholeheartedly endorse. My own experience was growing up in a bilingual household; I wish I were as bilingual now as I was when I was a child. Some of my Croatian language skills are not quite what they were 10 or 15 years ago, but I can still converse reasonably with fellow Croatian Australians, and indeed relatives overseas, which is a very valuable thing. It has been an important part of my upbringing and I think it does add to us as a community; it adds to the diversity that people coming are able to hold on to the important parts of their culture as well as holding on to their language. It is so important and such an important bridge between generations, particularly for migrants who have come to Australia to make a new life; to have that intergenerational communication is very important.

So I absolutely endorse the first part of the motion. I think it is on the money. We as a nation have benefited greatly from the diversity of cultures that we have. On Sunday, speaking to the Greek community as part of their Glendi, I made the point that for my family and for many immigrant families Australia presented a great opportunity to come and escape oppression or have economic opportunities that were not there in their native lands, and the flipside of that has been that those who have come here and had wonderful opportunities have given so much back to the community. We as a nation and we as a city are so much richer for the contributions we have had from our various ethnic communities. It cannot be overstated how much richer we are as a nation and as a community because of the contribution of our various ethnic communities.

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