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Migrant Education suffers under Fraser Government



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Statement by the Hon. E.G. Whitlam, Q.C.,M.P.

Migrant Education Suffers under Fraser Government

. The next Labor Government would tackle the·, problems of migrant children in schools with speed and compassion, the Leader of the Opposition and M.P. for Werriwa, Mr E.G. Whitlam said today.

"There is considerable evidence that learning problems are increasing in schools witli-high migrant density," he said.

Mr Whitlam was opening ' ’Ethnic Day" at Lurnea High School in his electorate. . ‘ .

. He said the Liberals were ignoring the report of an inquiry . into schools with high migrant density initiated by the Australian Labor Government in 1974. The inquiry, completed last year, was conducted by officers of the Australian, New South Wales and . Victorian education departments.

The report had recommended the establishment of pilot ■ · . programs of bilingual education and special centres where children could be taught English before they enrolled at school, . and the appointment.of more ethnic wel-fare officers and other .

ancillary staff in schools of high migrant density. ~ -According to the report, more than 80 per cent of children . in some schools in New South Wales and Victoria were of non- . . English speaking backgrounds. In one such school more than.'

300 children had parents who were both working. (At Lurnea almost half the pupils were of overseas background and belonged to 37 different ethnic groups). . .

Mr Whitlam said the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties, in a report issued eight days ago, had urged education departments to recruit teachers from relevant ethnic&roups who could talk with migrant children in

their own languages. „ · " · ■ '

He said the Labor Government had recognised that these needs were particularly acute in the outer suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. Funds for migrant education programs had risen from $6.5m in 1971-72 to $23.6m in 1975-76, of which the largest increase was

in funds for child migrants. .

The Commissioner for Community Relations, Mr Grassby, had reported last August that 700,000 Australian schoolchildren had a first language other than English, leading to two years of retardation in many cases. Mr Grassby had reported that reforms

in child migrant education were more urgent now than ever.

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Mr Whitlam· said Nthe Fraser Government had given no indication that it endorsed the findings of these inquiries or would take any action to deal with the problems disclosed. . ' ' . /.

The transfer of responsibility for child migrant education from the Department of Education to the Schools Commission made it difficult to determine how much the Fraser Government was spending on child migrant education. . The Minister . for Education, Senator Garrick, had. said merely that

"a substantial amount Of money will be made available".

"The Fraser Government must follow up the initiatives Labor has taken in migrant education, particularly for children, Mr Whitlam said. . . . .

; "The Australian people will not accept the injustice, social waste and personal hardship entailed in an education system which discriminates against migrant children and their families." . . . .

22 October 1976