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Wednesday, 22 August 1973
Page: 226

Mr GRASSBY(Riverina - Minister for

Immigration) (5.14) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill provides legislative basis for the provision, as an emergency measure under the child migrant education program, of supplementary class-room accommodation in State and independent schools where this is necessary to allow adequate special instruction of migrant children to take place. The Bill seeks an amendment of the Immigration (Education) Act 1971 which, in defining in section 3 capital equipment of an educational nature' which could be financed under the child program, specifically excluded any building. The program of special assistance to State and independent schools in which there are migrant children handicapped by a lack of knowledge of the English language was introduced by the previous Government in April 1970. The decision was then taken that funds should be provided for the salaries of special teachers toprovide special instruction to migrant children; for the purchase of approved capital equipment of the language laboratory type for use in the special classes to be established; for the provision of suitable teaching and learning materials; and for the cost of training courses for special teachers.

However, funds were not to be provided for accommodation for the special classes, and schools were obliged to arrange these in whatever circumstances were possible. Despite these difficulties, there has been a substantial development in the child program. Expenditure has increased from $1.8m in the financial year 1970-71 to an expected $8.4m in the present financial year. The number of special teachers employed to give instruction in special classes has risen from 546 in 1970-71 to approximately 1,500 in the current financial year. We expect that close on 60,000 children will be receiving instruction in special classes this financial year. Nevertheless, children and teachers are working in some schools, particularly of high migrant density, under completely unacceptable conditions. A survey of child migrant education in schools of high migrant density in Melbourne which the Government initiated late in 1972, and which was undertaken by the Victorian Education Department, the Catholic Education Office in Victoria, the Department of Immigration and the. Department of Education, revealed serious inadequacies with respect to both accommodation and supply of teachers, which are related,problems, and some shortages of equipment and materials.

The report showed that only one-third of children in the 63 schools surveyed who were having difficulty with English were actually receiving assistance and of this one-third 40 per cent were not receiving sufficient special tuition. In effect, only 20 per cent of the children in the schools surveyed who needed English were receiving enough of it. The basic reason for this situation was the shortage of suitable accommodation for special classes. The report also showed that only 29 per cent of the rooms actually used for migrant classes were appropriate class-rooms. This meant that children and teachers were working in substandard accommodation comprising staff rooms, cloak rooms, store rooms, offices, sick bays and even shower rooms and laundries. Although the survey described in the report was confined to Melbourne, it was expected that much the same situation would apply in sections of the Sydney metropolitan area and possibly to a lesser degree in some other centres.

The findings of the Melbourne survey were amply confirmed by the task forces which I established early this year to identify and report on special problems confronting migrants. Because I see migrant education as one of the most vital matters affecting migrants, I asked that this area should be given first priority by the task forces. This was done, and their initial reports have stressed the disadvantages migrant children are suffering through inadequate instruction in the national language. The report of the New South Wales Task Force, released by Mr Riordan, M.P., in the absence of the Chairman, Dr Klugman, M.P., called attention to the urgent need to extend to the fullest possible extent the present system of teaching migrant children English as quickly as possible after enrolment. In presenting the report of the Victoria Task Force, its Chairman, Mr Garrick, M.P.. and Vice-Chairman, Mr Innes, M.P., reported that migrant children are being blatantly denied a good education because they are not taught enough English.

Mr ManfredCross, M.P., Chairman of the Queensland Task Force, in presenting his Committee's report, referred to a number of schools in Queensland in which special classes were being conducted in sub-standard accommodation. Cabinet on 14 May 1973 approved a joint submission by the Ministers for Immigration and Education to extend the child migrant education program to include provision for supplementary class-room accommodation by way of demountable or portable class-rooms, where this was necessary as an emergency measure to ensure that adequate instruction could be given. The intention is that funds will be provided over a 2-year period when the situation will be reviewed in the light of other measures for Australian Government financial support for school buildings.

Following the Government's decision, State and independent school authorities were asked to establish priorities on the basis of the greatest need - in terms of high migrant children density and the location of schools in areas of social deprivation {which tend together to compound the problems of both migrant children and special teachers), the availability of special teachers, and ground space at the schools where demountable classrooms could be erected.

Some 420 schools have been listed by the education authorities where additional classrooms are required for this purpose. At some schools, two or more classrooms would be needed. An initial estimate is that 550 classrooms will be required in all. At an estimated average cost of $9,500 for provision, erection and furnishing, an amount of $5.25m would be required over the 2-year period. A sum of $2m has been provided in 1973-74 for the emergency classroom accommodation program. Further expenditure can be expected in the course of the 2 years for which the program is designed.

The Bill, Mr Speaker, is a relatively short one. Clause 1 makes the point that the principal Act when amended will be known as the Immigration (Education) Act 1971-1973. Clause 2 provides that the Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the royal assent. Passage of the legislation will be necessary before expenditure may be incurred in the provision of emergency classroom accommodation. The purpose of clause 3 is to extend the definition of 'capital equipment of an educational nature' in section 3 of the original Act to provide also for portable classrooms but not to include any other building.

The emergency classroom accommodation program does not contemplate expenditure on accommodation of a permanent kind. The program is essentially an emergency measure to meet an immediate need. It is to run for a 2-year period at which time the situation will be reviewed in the light of other measures for Australian Government financial support for school buildings. Demountable classrooms have the advantage of mobility, as needs change between schools; they are suitable for use as an emergency measure in old schools which may be scheduled for demolition and are adaptable either to further subdivision or to an open plan approach to teaching. The expression 'portable classrooms' has been used in this clause as it can be applied also to classrooms described in some States as 'demountable classrooms'.

Clause 4 provides for the expectation that the Australian Government, in addition to paying for the portable classrooms that have been obtained direct by education authorities, may in some circumstances itself wish to handle the ordering and supply in the case of a particular education authority. It appears that the majority of State Departments of Education and Catholic education offices will have the necessary administrative resources and machinery tq arrange supply but some may not. In view of the emergency nature of the program and to ensure proper use of funds, it is desirable that the Australian Government have the authority to arrange supply where this is necessary. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.

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