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Talking our clients' language



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MPS 34/92 (OMA)

TALKING OUR CLIENTS' LANGUAGE

The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Mr Gerry Hand, today announced the release of the report "Review of the Linguistic Availability Performance Allowance" (LAPA).

LAPA is an annual allowance paid to linguistically qualified staff in the Australian Public Service who regularly communicate with people in languages other than English in addition to their normal duties. LAPA was first introduced

in 1978 as a measure to assist Australian residents not fluent in English to gain access to Government programs and services.

A Working Party chaired by the Office of Multicultural * Affairs oversaw the review and has now reported on its findings. Mr Hand said the report's release signalled the completion of another initiative of the National Agenda for

a Multicultural Australia.

The review considered LAPA's effectiveness as a measure to improve access and equity in the delivery of Commonwealth programs and services. It also examined the potential of the scheme to provide an incentive for service providers to

acquire, retain and enhance bilingual skills.

Further consideration is being given to the effectiveness of the LAPA scheme in the context of a much broader evaluation of the Government's Access and Equity Strategy which is currently underway and due to report later this year. Access and Equity is a Government strategy for removing linguistic, cultural, religious and racial barriers to the conduct of

its business. LAPA clearly has the potential to improve effective management of service delivery to clients of non-English speaking background.

"I am pleased that the review has affirmed LAPA's value as an access and equity measure, and I have accepted its recommendations to improve the operation of the scheme," Mr Hand said.

The report urges all Commonwealth agencies to promote LAPA actively. To assist them in this task, the Department of Industrial Relations will review LAPA allowances in accordance with the Government's industrial relations policies and wage fixation principles, and produce new promotional material about the scheme.

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COMMONWEALTH ' PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY . MICAH

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1 1 The majority of LAPA recipients are based in such areas as welfare, health and education which require frequent public contact," Mr Hand said. "However, many other areas of Government could benefit from using LAPA, to encourage their

staff to use their existing bilingual skills in the cause of improving service delivery and increasing access and equity. LAPA is a very useful and cost-effective adjunct to the range of interpreting and translating services available to non-English speaking people dealing with Government agencies."

CANBERRA 15 July, 1992

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Lynne Adams Minister's Office (06) 277.7860

Megan Cook Office of Multicultural Affairs (06) 271.5656