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Coalition to rationalise English language programs

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Philip Ruddock MP


Federal Member for Dundas Electorate Parliament House

Shadow Minister for Immigration Tel: (02) 858 1011 Tel: (06) 277 4343

Ethnic Affairs Fax: (02) 804 6739 Fax: (06) 277 2062


The inability to communicate effectively in English is the prime cause for such high unemployment rates amongst newly arrived migrants.

The language barrier acts to isolate and marginalise migrants more than any other sector of the community for a variety of reasons, and it ought to be a priority of governments to ensure that this is overcome. This barrier is particularly difficult to overcome in relation to health and legal issues faced by migrant women.

The Government admitted, in August last year, that past policy failures had resulted in an enormous backlog of some 70,000 migrants who did not have access to English language programs.

Despite the enormity of the literacy problem, the Government has suffered marked policy paralysis in effectively addressing the causes and implementing a policy to improve the outcome.

The recent changes to the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) have done little to expand access to migrants requiring English language teaching.

Fundamental restructuring of the program is required. Currently Commonwealth resources for teaching English to speakers of another language, are dispersed amongst a number of government bodies, statutory authorities and departments, including the

Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs (DILGEA) and the Department of Education, Employment and Training (DEET).

There is little co-ordination as economies affected in one are not utilised in others. An independent evaluation of English language courses found that AMEP operates, at a unit cost, 38% more cheaply than the funded programs in the English as a Second Language area conducted by DEET.

The Opposition's approach would be to co-ordinate all English language programs under one commonwealth authority and to utilise the AMEP model to achieve an efficient and effective service.

It is regrettable that the Government has sought to emphasise cost recovery at the expense of effecting fundamental reform to ensure English language tuition is available to all who need it.

As in other areas of immigration and ethnic affairs policy, the Government has been unable to put forward a policy which not only addresses current problems, but provides future direction. CO?.tfv;ON` vEALTH 26 February 1993 PARUUAMENTARY LIBRARY