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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2509

Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong) (13:48): I raise the important issue of foreign language training in our schools and universities, in particular the rapid decline in the number of Australian students learning an Asian language, including that of our largest and most important near-neighbour, Indonesia. In 2005, 6.6 per cent of year 12 students were learning an Asian language; in 2009, it was 5.8 per cent. In fact, in 2009 there were fewer year 12 students studying Indonesian than in 1972. In the years from 2001 to 2010, enrolments in Indonesia across the country fell by 40 per cent and in New South Wales by 70 per cent, when at the same time the undergraduate population increased by nearly 40 per cent. If this trend continues over the coming decade, Indonesian will only be found on university syllabuses in one state and one territory, Victoria and the Northern Territory. This is clearly not good enough. We need generations of Australians who can speak Asian languages, understand their culture and are familiar with their people. These generations of Australians will become a vital national asset, opening doors and paving the way for a constructive and productive bilateral relationship.

I would like to pay tribute to Murdoch University's Professor David Hill for his recent study of Indonesian language teaching in Australian universities. His valuable and comprehensive report makes 20 specific recommendations, requiring limited new funding, as to how we can improve the current state of affairs. I commend this report to the House and say to the government we need urgent action on this issue before it is too late.