Multiculturalism issues feature in state election

first_imgInterpreter services, racism and community languages were the hot issues, as Victoria’s ethnic community groups met key Victorian politicians on Thursday night. Multiculturalism gives Victoria our competitive edge. Just over three weeks before the state election, the Minister Assisting the Premier on Multicultural Affairs, James Merlino, Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism, Nick Kotsiras, and the Greens spokesperson for multiculturalism, Colleen Hartland, spoke about their parties’ approaches. President of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV) Sam Afra, said he was pleased to see a bipartisan approach to multiculturalism in the state. But, while they agreed with Merlino that “multiculturalism gives Victoria our competitive edge,” the three parties are divided on the best way to put multicultural policy into action. Merlino spoke about the government’s record, listing $10 million in spending on cultural precincts, $5.6 million for the Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC) and legislative changes including the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act as major achievements. “We are proud of these achievements, but there’s more to do,” he told the crowd, citing interpreter services as a policy area needing attention. Both Merlino and Kotsiras foreshadowed more announcements about multicultural policy, in particular community languages, in the lead-up to the November 27 state election. Kotsiras reiterated the importance of diversity in Victoria, and said that under a Coalition state government, the VMC would be made more independent from the government, and its funding levels and remain the same, “in fact it will be increased”. He said the VMC would work more directly with community groups. “You’re the experts, not bureaucrats, not ministers,” he said. Hartland said Victoria had a long way to go on multiculturalism, particularly with racism, youth engagement and translating services. She told the crowd she’d attended a translating workshop recently, “and I have to say I was a little horrified”. Work conditions for Victoria’s 1500 interpreters came under attack, with one audience member telling the speakers they receive “$19 for one hour’s work then they go home again”. “It’s becoming more of an issue as communities get older and revert to their original language,” Merlino said. “Think about the Italians, the Greeks, the Chinese,” he said, foreshadowing a new ALP strategy for translating, with a greater focus on technology. Hartland said the Greens were in favour of abolishing TAFE fees for translating courses to deal with the shortage of workers. Tensions rose when Jason Kambovski, from the self-declared Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee, demanded the speakers recognise him as “Macedonian”, rather than “Slav-Macedonian”. “It’s racist, it’s discriminatory and it’s not how our community wants to be named,” he said. All the speakers said foreign affairs were a federal matter. “We’re not going to refer to nations, in a way that’s contrary to the way that federally and internationally, countries and communities are referred to,” Merlino said. Ms Hartland said she intended to speak to the Greek community about “what is clearly a sticking point”, although she acknowledged it is a federal matter. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more