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Latin American Cultural Centre

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Amongst the many enjoyable things that I got to do this past Sunday, one of the highlights was a visit to Canberra’s new Latin American Cultural Centre. This facility is the first of its kind in the ACT, and Canberra’s Latin American community members are thrilled to have it.

The new centre will promote Latin American culture by providing a space where a number of cultural groups and activities can thrive. Spanish language classes are already being taught, and dance lessons are available for tango, bachata, salsa, and Zumba.

Here Canberrans can also find Mexican cooking workshops and handcraft markets. Visitors can watch Latin American movies and find books. Latin American artists will also be using the space to showcase their works, and the Spanish Pioneros Scouts also meet in the centre. Older Latin Americans in Canberra will also be able to enjoy this venue as a meeting space where they can spend time together.

The Latin American Cultural Centre is supported by the Spanish Speakers Association, a non-profit organisation run by a volunteer committee of parents, and it will be the home of the association’s Spanish-language school, called Ositos Cool. One of the central goals of the organisation is to encourage younger generations of Spanish speakers to maintain their parents’ and grandparents’ culture and language – a point given much-needed emphasis by the motion that Opposition Leader Alistair Coe successfully brought to the Assembly earlier today in support of mother languages. They included ‘cool’ in the name of their school because they want their Spanish-language instruction to be just as fun as dancing, singing and playing.

My host at the new cultural centre was Carlos Torres, director of the Spanish Speakers Association and winner of the territory’s 2015 Volunteer of the Year award in the education, science and technology category. Carlos started Ositos Cool with just one class of four children and has overseen the program’s growth to four classes with about 40 children and eight childcare centre classes with 12 students each. He also started the Spanish-speaking Scout group mentioned earlier.

Carlos embodies many of the values that guide the Canberra Liberals, including our belief in the worth of the individual and in the right to be independent and to achieve, as well as our beliefs in the need to foster initiative and personal responsibility and to emphasise the importance of voluntary effort and volunteer organisations.

I wish to thank him for so graciously hosting me on Sunday … and more importantly for all that he has done to drive the Spanish Speakers Association, to grow Spanish-language instruction in the territory, and also all that he has done to help secure this new cultural centre. Well done, Carlos!

Before I conclude, I wish to mention that the association will be hosting a fundraiser on Sunday, 8 October. Excess funds generated on the day will go towards financing the new Latin American Cultural Centre, and I wish them much success with this event and with all their future endeavours.

Thank you.

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