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Thursday, 20 September 2007
Page: 167

Mr Brendan O’Connor asked the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, in writing, on 8 May 2007:

(1)   What opportunities are available to current and prospective members of the Australian Defence Forces to study foreign languages.

(2)   Is it currently possible for ADF members to study Arabic at an undergraduate level

(3)   Does he acknowledge that Australia has ongoing commitments in the Middle East; if so what steps is the Minister taking to improve the level of Arabic language competency in the ADF

Mr Billson (Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   The Australian Defence Force (ADF) School of Languages at RAAF Williams in Melbourne runs training programs in the languages considered to be priorities for Defence. The ADF nominates members to attend language programs at the school on the basis of Defence’s foreign language capability requirements. Members who have graduated from the school are encouraged to maintain and enhance their skills, through the provision of a Language Proficiency Allowance and access to skills maintenance packages. In addition, the Army and the Air Force make provision for members posted overseas to access in-country follow-on training to maintain and enhance skill levels. Members may also seek support to undertake language studies on a part-time basis, on their own initiative. This may occur under the auspices of Civil Schooling, or the Defence Assisted Study Scheme.

(2)   Yes, it is possible for a member to study Arabic at an undergraduate level, through Civil Schooling or the Defence Assisted Study Scheme.

(3)   Defence has sought to improve the level of Arabic language competency in the ADF since commencing operations in the Middle East Area of Operations in 2001. The ADF School of Languages has run courses in Arabic since 2002. They comprise ad hoc courses, which provide members with: a very limited communication capability, usually memorised phrases; a basic course that produces graduates with some effective communication capability in a limited range of subject areas and topics; and a longer general language course that produces graduates who are capable of being quite effective communicators on general and familiar or specialist topics. Since 2002, there have been 502 graduates from the ad hoc course, 184 graduates from the basic course and 47 graduates from the general course. There are currently 12 students enrolled in the general course for 2007.