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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 6192

Ms O’DWYER (4:27 PM) —I rise to speak on the current threat to the diversity of foreign languages in our government schools. The Rudd government is currently considering reducing the number of foreign languages taught in public schools from 12 to eight under its proposed new national curriculum. The teaching of languages at school serves to further enrich students both linguistically and culturally. Learning a foreign language gives students an opportunity to learn about other countries and cultures on a deeper level.

One of the languages that the government is considering abandoning is Modern Greek, a language of great significance to the Western and English-speaking world. Let me state for the record that this is something that I oppose. The teaching of Modern Greek in our schools currently gives students the opportunity to learn about one of the most important cultures in the world. By learning about the history and language of Greece, students are learning about the development of Western civilisation and the growth of important institutions that remain with us today. Today’s modern, enlightened democracies are the beneficiaries of Athenian political and philosophical thought, and our literary heritage has drawn upon the mythologies and great literary and historical works of Greek writers and philosophers. The English language has benefited from Greek influence, with approximately 12 per cent of English words having Greek origin. An understanding of the English language’s Greek roots can enhance our knowledge not only of Greek but of English as well. A history and language curriculum that is well founded in classical antiquity and foreign language is the best education revolution that our children can have. By learning the Greek language, students are accustomed to other cultures, innovations and traditions.

Our national curriculum should also reflect important events in our nation’s history. Our friendship and cooperation with Greece and the Greek people were most fully displayed during World War II, when both Australia and Greece were brought into the war against the imperial ambitions of the Nazi regime in Germany. Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Crete, a landmark event during World War II that saw the end of the German military ascendancy. Australia and Greece have a strong history of friendship and cooperation, and the Greek diaspora is very much a part of my own electorate of Higgins. It gives me great pleasure and it is a great privilege to represent their concerns today.