Community Services and Multicultural Framework Update


Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I wish to thank the Minister for the update he has just provided on the ACT Multicultural Framework’s first action plan, 2015–2018.

As the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, I have frequently been asked about the progress in implementing the specific actions that were committed to under this action plan. As a consequence, in August this year, I moved a motion calling on the ACT Government to provide detailed and frank reporting on the progress of each action therein. This is important, Madam Speaker, because for many culturally and linguistically diverse Canberrans, these are not just interesting ideas to talk about; these residents are eagerly awaiting the completion of these actions in order to be able to fully access basic government services and fully participate in community life.

When I spoke in August, I shared concerns raised by multicultural community leaders, amongst others, regarding lack of adequate translations for basic government publications and lack of accredited interpreters, especially in new and emerging language communities – both things that this government promised to improve as part of its first action plan.

Ms Stephen-Smith, who was then Minister for Multicultural Affairs, successfully amended the motion, which was then passed. The motion called on this government to provide an update on the implementation of the Multicultural Framework in a ministerial statement no later than the last sitting day of 2018. It also stated that this update should include, and I quote directly from the amended motion:

  • ‘which actions and outcomes have been fully achieved and when;

  • which actions and outcomes are in progress; and

  • which actions and outcomes have not been progressed yet, reasons for any delay, and projected completion dates’.

Minister Steel in his update just now noted that, ‘under the Framework, the Government committed to deliver 28 actions under three main objectives’. I think I am safe to say, Madam Speaker, that after having listened to the Minister’s update today, no one in this chamber will know any better than we did first thing this morning

  • ‘which actions and outcomes have been fully achieved and when;

  • which actions and outcomes are in progress; and

  • which actions and outcomes have not been progressed yet, reasons for any delay, and projected completion dates’.

I am happy to hear that the Canberra Institute of Technology is now offering training to become an accredited interpreter. This appears to be a new development since when I asked the former Minster for Multicultural Affairs less than four months ago what courses in the ACT were endorsed by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters, she responded to my question on notice by referring me to the authority’s website. But without more information, I can’t be 100 per cent certain if this is a new development or not.

More to the point, Madam Speaker, no one yet knows how whether this government has kept its commitment to our multicultural communities to ‘identity and support suitable people who are willing to undertake accreditation as formal interpreters to build a large pool of local interpreters … particularly in those languages for new and emerging multicultural community groups’, which is a quote taken directly from the Multicultural Framework. Or if so, how many and in what languages? Nor do we know if any of this is in progress, reasons for delay, or when we can expect to see results.

In short, Madam Speaker, what we heard just now was an update that is long on nice-sounding platitudes but rather short on any actual updating. It is certainly not the detailed and frank assessment that this Assembly unitedly called upon the government to provide. This raises the obvious question: is this government hiding something? Or are they just not competent enough to follow up with the reporting that was called for in a unanimously supported motion? Either choice suggests some kind of failure when it comes to keeping their commitments with the multicultural community.

I am sorely disappointed, Madam Speaker, that the Minister would respond to the expectations of culturally and linguistically diverse Canberrans in this way. A pat on the head and a smiling assurance that this government is doing very well, thank you, is not the detailed or honest information that our community wanted or needed to hear, nor is it what this Assembly agreed to in August. This is a snub to multicultural communities and makes a joke of the whole motion process in this Assembly. This government must do better in this space, and I invite them to work with me to avoid these kinds of mistakes going forward.

#MulticulturalAffairs #MinisterialStatement #Community

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