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Migrants need to learn english says Dawkins

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E mployment E ducation & T raining T H E H O N . J O H N D A W K I N S M . P .




Australia is officially a multiculttiral nation, but it is also officially monolingual and migrants must learn English to fully participate in Australian society, John Dawkins said today.

Speaking in Sydney at an OECD conference on education and

"This failure has led to immense social and economic difficulties for new arrivals and has seen valuable skills locked-up behind the language barrier," said Mr Dawkins.

The Minister said the 1986 census revealed there were some 140,000 migrants in Australia who possessed little or no English

"This is a hopeless commentary on the adequacy of past practice in providing English language training to new arrivals.

"Not only have we failed those of our fellow Australians in providing opportunities to fully participate in our schools, education institutions, the workforce and society. But we have denied ourselves the value of their skills, which remain locked up behind the language barrier."

Mr Dawkins said migrants with no or poor English have also been unable to tap into the benefits of award restructuring because their poor language skills mean they cannot fully participate in training programs.

"One point needs to be made very, very clear. New training opportunities in Australia will only be available in English.

"We have a unique multicultural society in Australia. But we are a monolingual nation. The functional language of this countrv is English and all Australians need to have a good grasp of it.

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Mr Dawkins said changes to the Australian Migrant English Program (AMEP) will see a concentration on English language training during the first five years of settlement.

"About 85 per cent of new arrivals of non-English sneaking backgrounds are now participating in the program.1'

The Minister said, however, that more had to be done by governments, ethnic communities and new arrivals to make sure migrants have the language skills they need to fully participate in Australian life.

"New measures to boost the English language skills of migrants will be announced following the release by the end of July of the Federal Government’s White Paper on Literacy and Language Policy."

A policy discussion paper was released late last year.

Consultations on that paper and submissions on its content close at the end of this month. Almost 50 submissions have already been received.

March 20,1991 .