Page 1439 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 3 May 2016

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I have heard stories from our campaign manager, Maiy Azize, who worked with him on the Greens TAFE campaign. I was blown away by his commitment to TAFE. He could tell stories for hours about laid-off workers who turned to TAFE to re-skill, retrain and find a second chance. His despair at what was happening to TAFE and public education in Australia was genuine and obvious to everyone who heard him speak about it.

It cannot be denied that his personal style grated with some, but even his opponents respected his prodigious work ethic, his attention to policy detail, his sincerity and his passion for the things he cared about. Possibly one of the best examples of that was during the filibuster against public sector wage reforms in the New South Wales parliament. He spoke for over five hours about the economic priorities of the major parties and the impact of government policy on working people.

John always championed outsiders: laid-off workers, disadvantaged students, and Aboriginal people. He was politically radical to the core. He loved to call himself the “last remaining” social democrat. I particularly loved Bob Brown’s words about him this morning. Bob said he was a “champion of public education, pursuer of the corrupt, friend of the poor and dispossessed”.

John will be sorely missed by all sides of politics in New South Wales and across the country. He was a hero of the Australian Greens and an inspiration to many. My thoughts are with John’s partner, Lynne; his sister, Dina; his brothers, Andrew and Stephen; and their families. And my thoughts are also with my New South Wales Greens colleagues, who will sorely miss John and his great contribution to New South Wales politics.

Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services—English language program

MS BERRY (Ginninderra—Minister for Housing, Community Services and Social Inclusion, Minister for Multicultural and Youth Affairs, Minister for Sport and Recreation and Minister for Women) (4.31): Madam Deputy Speaker, it was a great pleasure for me to attend the 20-year anniversary celebration of the English language program run by Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services, MARSS, last week. This is a free English class which has helped thousands of migrants and refugees to gain skills that give them the opportunity to connect with Australians and assist them to find work and education opportunities.

In addition to this, MARSS runs the ACT home tutor program for those who are unable to attend English classes. I was pleased to announce that the ACT government will continue to provide $15,000 to expand on this program. Volunteer tutors provide one-on-one English tuition in the client’s home which is tailored to their individual needs to help them to overcome learning barriers. On meeting one of the participants at the program, it was clear to me that this program was more than just about learning the English language: this was a real opportunity for these people to be able to find different ways to be more included in our community, whether it was finding the local shops, getting on the bus, getting their kids to school or sport, or connecting up with different community organisations to support them.

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