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Monaro Portuguese School

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Last month we observed International Mother Language Day. This day has its origin in the Bengali Language Movement of what was then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Protests by Bangla speakers against attempts to force them to speak Urdu actually led to the death of five martyrs and the injury of hundreds of others in 1952. Thirty-seven years later, the United Nations proclaimed this day, not only to honour mother languages but also to draw attention to the ongoing extinction of languages.

In the ACT, we are lucky to have a large number of community language schools committed to preserving and even expanding the use of various mother languages. These include Arabic, Bangla, Cantonese, Croatian, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, Greek, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Karen, Khmer, Korean, Macedonian, Mandarin, Māori, Mon, Japanese, Persian, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Sāmoan, Serbian, Sinhalese, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Tongan and Vietnamese. What a wonderful gift to our community this is!

On 9 February this year, it was my privilege to attend a fundraiser in support of one of these organisations, the Monaro Portuguese School, held at the Queanbeyan Showground. I rise today to thank Sara Dias, the school’s coordinator and teacher, for the generous invitation to attend. More than that, I wish to thank Sara for her passion and determination to enhance and spread the use of the Portuguese Language in Canberra and the surrounding region.

She is certainly doing something right! Monaro Portuguese School began with two classes, one for children and one for teenagers, but it now offers four classes: two for beginners, one for intermediate learners and one for adults. I congratulate the entire school community, Madam Speaker, on this success and wish them much more.

The passion and commitment of the school’s supporters were evident on the evening of the fundraiser. I enjoyed the time I got to spend with them. One of the best ways to enter another culture, Madam Speaker, is to enjoy with them their food. The Portuguese dishes available on the evening were all delicious, especially my favourite: pasteis de nata, a rich egg custard baked in a buttery pastry. Even sweeter, however, were the voices of the young students who entertained attendees by singing in the Portuguese Language.

Madam Speaker, in a motion last November, the Canberra Liberals sought to call upon the ACT Government to ‘work more closely with the Community Language Schools Association’ to share teaching resources so that language education can be offered in a school setting where needed’. I still believe that to be an important objective. I also think that this government could make it easier for community language schools, such as Monaro Portuguese and others, to provide evidence of achievement on a student’s school record, something that I have been told is much easier in other jurisdictions.

A multicultural society is also multilingual. I love that aspect of our city’s social landscape and hope more can be done to increase the acquisition of other languages and to support those already engaged in this task. In the shadow of this year’s International Mother Language Day, I wish my very best to Monaro Portuguese School and all other community language schools. Muito obrigada or many thanks!

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