I am pleased also to rise to make a contribution on the Multicultural Victoria
Amendment Bill 2008. What we have before us this afternoon is a bill to enact an
election commitment taken by the Labor Party to the 2006 election. That
commitment was to merge the Victorian Office of Multicultural Affairs with the
Victorian Multicultural Commission. We would not have included it in the policy
statement on strengthening multiculturalism in Victoria if it were not for the
fact that ethnic communities in Victoria supported it and asked for it.
The Premier made his annual statement of government intentions
in February. He clearly outlined several elements that needed to be contained in
the bill to fulfil our election promise. Firstly, it was to consolidate the
administration of the multicultural affairs portfolio into a single statutory
authority and to improve the efficiency and good delivery of multicultural
activities, strategies and policies.
Secondly, it was to enhance a whole-of-government approach to
multiculturalism in this state and provide a greater community focus to enhance
community input and participation and increase support to culturally and
linguistically diverse communities. Thirdly, it was to improve the
accountability of government departments in the area of multicultural affairs
and to ensure the compatibility of the Charter of Human Rights and
Responsibilities Act 2006.
If you go to the particulars of the amendments that are before
us today, you will see that clause 4 is headed ‘Principles of multiculturalism’.
It makes a substitution in section 4(3)(e) of the act so that it will state:
- All individuals in Victoria have a responsibility to abide by the State’s
laws and respect the democratic processes under which those laws are made.
In existing part 3, ‘Victorian Multicultural Commission’,
section 8 — which talks about the functions of the commission — there are two
new subparagraphs: (f), which will provide for the commission to facilitate
community input with respect to meeting the objectives of the commission; and
(g), which will enable the commission to provide information and advice in the
area of multicultural affairs to the government departments and other relevant
bodies as necessary.
Following section 13 — still in part 3 — a new section 13A
will deal with the director of staff of the commission:
- For the purposes of this Act, there are to be employed under Part 3 of the
Public Administration Act 2004 —
(a) a Director of the Commission; and
(b) as many staff as are required to assist the Commission.
To section 14, ‘Deputy Chairperson of the Commission’, there
will be two additions providing for one of the members of the commission or the
director of the commission to be the deputy chairperson of the commission.
All of that so far is fairly straightforward. In part 4 there
are some more significant amendments to section 19, which deals with the
reporting requirements of government departments. These amendments add
interpreting and translating services to paragraph (a), include the words ‘and
communications in the ethnic media’ in paragraph (b), add the words ‘including
the identified needs of youth, older persons and women within these communities’
to paragraph (c) and add a new paragraph (e), which refers to:
- the Department’s progress under its cultural diversity plan to address
provision for culturally sensitive service delivery to Victoria’s communities
A new paragraph (f) is also added. It refers to:
- any initiatives developed by the Department that meet the identified needs
of culturally and linguistically diverse communities in regional and rural areas
of Victoria …
That particular addition is quite heartening for many. I
represent the electorate of Western Victoria Region, and we have a significant
number of different ethnic communities. In Warrnambool and Colac we have fairly
recently arrived Sudanese communities, while in places like Geelong we have a
long tradition of having well-organised ethnic communities.
I take this opportunity to congratulate Diversitat in Geelong
for its ongoing work in this area. It does an excellent job in bringing together
a whole range of communities on an ongoing basis, and that is typified by the
very successful Pako festival held in Pakington Street each year.
Recently I attended a Sunday lunch with members of the Spanish
community. It is clear that in the different ethnic communities we have, many of
the older members work tirelessly to make sure members of the younger generation
understand their language, culture and dance. We need to make sure there is
support for the older generation to continue that education in those
Section 19 of the act will also have a new paragraph (g), which
- any measures taken by the Department to promote human rights in accordance
with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities for multicultural
All in all the amendments we have before us are reasonably
straightforward. I cannot contemplate why anyone could possibly be opposed to
what is before the house today. This bill brings about the formalisation of what
has already occurred. The merger came into effect administratively on 1 May
2007, so this is an opportunity to formally amend the act. This is the last part
of what is required in the exercise that has taken us from an election promise
to a statement of government intent, to a lot of consultation and to the
drafting of the bill before us today.
I have quite a different take on this matter from that of the
previous Liberal speaker.
I also cite Mr George Lekakis’s foreword in the Victorian
Multicultural Commission’s most recent annual report, tabled on 28 October in
this house. Mr Lekakis said:
- … since the merger, the VMC’s —
the Victorian Multicultural Commission’s —
- fundamental role as an independent link between the community and the
government has been augmented with the role of developing and providing policy
advice in the area of multicultural affairs. Community input garnered through
regular consultations with communities and key stakeholders now directly feeds
into the policy options that are developed.
That is a very significant element that needs to be underlined
In terms of my experience in the car industry for some 20 years
prior to coming into this house, I lived in an environment that was almost like
being in the United Nations! The car industry, as everyone knows, is often the
first workplace that people in each wave of migration find their way to. When I
started in the late 1980s there was a real mixture of nationalities that had
come from war-torn Europe. We had a huge number of Italian, Greek and
Yugoslavian workers as well as shop stewards. Over time we also saw an influx of
Lebanese, Maltese and Turkish people and, during and after the Vietnam war, a
number of Indochinese people. In the car industry it is not an issue of talking
about multiculturalism; you live and breathe multiculturalism in every sense.
As a union we had to be mindful to ensure that there was clear
communication between the union, union officials and the membership, that plain
English was used at all times, that materials were translated and that, if
required, interpreters were used.
We needed to ensure that translations were done by people from
the same ethnic community in their own language rather than using so-called
expert interpreting or translating services that do not translate in the
shop-floor language of that ethnic community. We had to be mindful and have a
finger on the pulse on all occasions to ensure that there was real communication
and that real multiculturalism was being kept well and truly alive.
I was privileged to have had that experience during that time.
Many leaders of the ethnic groups ensured that there was respect amongst
everyone. They considered family very important, they believed it was important
to carve out a new life for themselves and the next generation and in particular
they believed education was very important. In all of that it was clear they had
a spirit of generosity and a strong sense of community.
It was not just a matter of representing the people in the car
industry who were working 9 to 5 or on shifts; it also meant being involved in
each and every one of those communities — at weddings and engagements, in
fundraising and in schools, and at funerals as well. It is the way the union
operates and needs to operate.
It was also interesting to go to the shop steward committee
meetings in the car industry. They were always very loud, boisterous and
incredibly robust. Everyone got everything off their chest, and everyone knew
how to communicate. We had almost every nationality represented as shop
stewards. We then went further and had women elected as shop stewards to assist
and partner other shop stewards. So the voices of women from different ethnic
communities were also heard directly. That provided a wholeness that was
important not just in terms of the shop floors at Ford, Toyota and Holden but
also in terms of making the union a much better, stronger and healthier
It is with that background that I am pleased to speak today. I
am also pleased to be part of a government that considers multiculturalism part
and parcel of everything we do; it is incorporated in everything we do and is
not an adjunct. The Premier himself is the Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
In terms of his personal attitudes to a range of issues, one of the things he
will never tolerate is disrespect for someone because they were born in another
country, have skin of a different colour or speak a different language. He is
very supportive of multiculturalism, not just in words but in every sense of his
being. I am pleased to speak today, and I wholeheartedly commend this bill to