Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 13 September 2017) . . Page.. 3613 ..
across our capital, Canberra truly is the embodiment of a global city and the government will continue to cement that status from the kindergarten classroom up, with our youngest Canberrans learning how to embrace our diversity and speak for themselves and others in a multilingual world.
MS LEE (Kurrajong) (11.53): Thank you, Madam Assistant Speaker.
Ms Lee then spoke in Korean.
Translation: The journey that I’ve taken to get to where I am today has been at times challenging and at times joyful. Most importantly, I’ve learnt a lot along the way.
I was born in Gwangju, in the Republic of Korea, and Korean is my first language, my mother language. My first words were “eomma”—“mum”—and “appa”—“dad.” So even in different cultures, something that we, as the human race, have in common is that most of us will claim “mum” and “dad” as our first words.
In preparing to migrate to Australia in 1986, when I was seven and my sister was five, my parents started to teach us English so that we could have a head start in settling into Australia. They put up wallpaper containing the alphabet in our room, and each evening we would sing the alphabet song and say simple phrases like “Mama, goodnight,” and “Goodnight, Papa.”
My parents knew very little English. They attended adult English school for the first month or so, but, because they had a young family to feed, they started working pretty much immediately. My parents will never master English. When you move to a foreign country well into your 30s, having spoken nothing but Korean, when you do not have a huge amount of formal education, when you do not have the opportunity or the freedom to pursue further education because you are still, at almost 70, working full time in low-paid manual labour to make ends meet, it is impossible to ever bridge that gap. Even after more than 30 years in Australia, Dad will say, “Australian movie star Jack Hughman,” and Mum will call her wrist “hand-neck” because in Korean the word for wrist is “sonmog”, which literally translates as “hand-neck.” But, hey; even non-Koreans can understand that.
Even though he can understand less than half of what he sees, hears or reads in the news, my dad is an avid consumer of Australian public affairs and political news. He makes sure that his work TV is turned on to the 24-hour news channel so that whenever he pops into the staffroom he can catch a glimpse of what is going on. He reads whatever newspaper happens to be in the staffroom every lunchtime and he has his car radio tuned in to a news channel so that he knows what is going on. I can only imagine how hard it is to concentrate that much to capture maybe 20 to 30 per cent of what he sees, reads and hears, but he still does it every day.
My parents’ English may be nowhere near good enough to pass an IELTS level, whatever it is, but they are more “Australian” and they contribute more to Australian society than anyone I know. When we first moved to Australia, my parents got us into the habit of writing in a diary in Korean every night. They had the wisdom to realise that English would come naturally to us as we started going to school and making