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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 February 2016) . . Page.. 183 ..

Of course, newly arrived migrants and refugees need support to settle into our community. There are many barriers that people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds face on an ongoing basis when it comes to accessing services and connecting with the community. It goes without saying that the ACT government has an important role in supporting multicultural communities so that they can have full access to the benefits of our city.

I know that the Theo Notaras centre is a focal point for multicultural communities and that some groups have their offices based there, as well as being the home for service providers such as MARSS and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. I have certainly been to many events over the years in the function room there, be they community celebrations, various festival celebrations or even the granting of citizenship. It really is a good facility and it should be a great resource for the community to meet and hold community events.

I support the calls in this motion for the government to assess the adequacy of the accommodation for the multicultural community at the Theo Notaras centre, as well as the funding levels and support available for multicultural groups more broadly. I look forward to the government response on these questions if we have an opportunity in the Assembly to reflect on that information and move forward from there to make sure that we are providing the right level of support to these various communities and groups who are reliant on that level of government support.

MRS JONES (Molonglo) (4.43), in reply: In conclusion, I thank all parties in the Assembly for their support of the motion and the minister for being willing to come back to the Assembly with some more information for us about their assessment on the adequacy of support to our multicultural groups. I also conclude by reminding the Assembly of my statements about freedom. Freedom is not free; it takes active effort. I congratulate those who have been part of the active effort to allow freedom and freedom of debate in this country in the past and I hope it will continue into the future.

Different religious groups and ethnic groups will bring very different attitudes and very different ideas to the table. I hope we will see a good array of ethnicity standing in this year’s election too. I am sure we will, because Canberra is so full of different communities that we celebrate.

I urge the minister also to remember my constant banging on about women learning English because we hear so often about relationships in these communities that have broken down and women who are isolated from services and access to services. Again, something that plays on my mind a great deal is the amount of child care that is available for women to go to the ACT-led English courses that we offer. These are representations that I will continue to make to the federal government about how we can better allow women to take their children with them so that they are able to learn English from an early stage after their arrival in Australia and Canberra. And that is not to forget that there are older Canberrans who have never really learnt the language very well. We have all met them while doorknocking. Those people live a life that perhaps does not have as much activity or access to as many groups as it could because of their English skills.

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