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Tuesday, 9 March 1971


Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - The Immigration (Education) Bill which is before the Senate today is a comprehensive one. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) said during the second reading speech that the Bill related to the total area of migrant education. Of course it is an education measure. It is designed for both children and adults and it also provides for intensive courses and full scale courses. The Bill is even more comprehensive when it is recognised that it is designed for migrants and some people who are in particular need and who might be described as 'former migrants'. The Bill describes them as 'certain other persons' which means certain naturalised Australians and the Australian born offspring of migrants who require English instruction. Although the measure comes from the Department of Immigration and was introduced by the Minister in the Senate representing the Minister for Immigration, it is also affiliated with the Department of Education and Science. That Department assists with the devolpment of the programme, particularly in the establishment of committee workings. These committee workings are in the nature of an advisory capacity and include representatives of State education departments. The Bill also contains a number of clauses which deal with living allowances, the employment of teachers, the training of teachers, the general arrangement for the classification of schools and the all important area of research.

The Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council is one of the institutions associated with the Department of Immigration whose special task and assignment is the integration of new settlers into the Australian community. The Bill which is now before the Senate is one of the vital measures associated with the integration of the new settler and the integration of the migrant community into the total Australian community. When we talk about integration we recognise that it is very desirable - indeed, essential - for adequate integration and for what I would call successful adjustment to life in Australia. Those of our migrants who may be described as new settlers in this country should be able to express themselves in the language of their new country and in our case that is the English language. This is important for a number of reasons. It is important from a psychological standpoint and also it is most important from an educational point of view that a new settler should be able to communicate adequately with the native-born Australian population and with all the institutions that go to make up the Australian community

In the sphere of education, in this way mutual understanding takes place. There is learning and the new settler acquires the essentials for what people sometimes refer to as a healthy adjustment to the new environment. But more particularly, through communication in English the new comer is able to understand and appreciate various customs, habits and colloquialisms. He is able to participate through newspapers, radio and television and is able to identify himself with the Australian way of life. More importantly in the matter of integration the need to learn the English language shows up in the area of family welfare. It is important that migrant parents, who are adult people and therefore might not have learnt English in their native country should be able to communicate very freely with their children at their various age groups and various levels of experience. This takes on a new importance when it is recognised that children, by virtue of their going to school or having an association with Australian-born children, have a distinct advantage in acquiring a knowledge of the English language rather more rapidly than their parents. This has an effect on the parent and child relationship and on the total family integration into the Australian community. In cases where parents might not have successfully acquired a measure of the English language, situations can arise where there is misunderstanding and sometimes estrangement. In some cases we have heard even of what may be called a conflict.

Moving from the personal situation through the family welfare situation, one comes into the area of employment. Migrants who speak English with some degree of fluency generally have better chances not only of progressing in their work but also of finding more suitable employment. The acquisition of the English language can assist a migrant worker to obtain employment with a wider range of employers and can open up avenues of promotion and advancement which are to his ultimate advantage. In the long term it is not desirable to have within our

Australian community groups of people, newcomers or migrants, who are isolated from the rest of the community by one or other of the language barriers. This puts them outside the mainstream of community activity, but also it deprives them of regular communication with the general Australian community. The Bill which is before us provides for a comprehensive programme of English language education facilities which are vital to the integration of migrants.

In a study of this kind I suppose it would be essential also to refer to the question of a migrant's understanding of the law, his obligations to the law and, truly, his privileges under the law. If he understands English he is able to understand the basic requirements of citizenship and is able to deal with everyday situations which bring him into contact with our legal and administrative institutions. So a knowledge of English is essential for an adequate integration in all areas to which I have referred. For these and many other reasons it has been the policy of the Government, ever since the beginning of our large scale immigration programme, to provide in varying and expanding degrees English language instruction to nonEnglishspeaking migrants.

I should like to look for a few minutes at the background to the measure which is now before us. What I say now has some relationship to the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. For some years the Commonwealth has been concerned about the difficulties encountered by migrant children and adult migrants in learning the English language. In 1968, on the initiative of the then Minister for Immigration, Mr Snedden, arrangements were made with the New South Wales Government for a division of research and planning within the New South Wales Department of Education, lt was arranged that the division should work in cooperation with the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science and with the Commonwealth Department of Immigration. The division was to undertake an investigation into the effectiveness of the existing provisions for teaching English to migrant children and adult migrants. Obviously it was only a pilot survey, but it was complemented by other surveys undertaken by the Department of Immigration into the whole matter of language problems at that time. The important thing revealed by these activities was a keen desire among migrants for the provision of more opportunities for the development of conversational skills.

Adult migrants who have long since left school may not be so actively concerned with correct grammar and things of this kind, but they were looking for more opportunities to develop conversational skills. 1 think the emphasis here is on the words 'more opportunities'. Usually adult migrants are busy in employment, setting up homes, attending to the welfare of their families and the development of their life generally and it is not always possible for them to fit into a private educational programme. Such things as hours and distances come into it. Consequently, there was a desire for more opportunities for the development of English communication. The findings of the surveys indicated also that an adult migrant with inadequate English faces a number of situations of difficulty, to which I have just referred.

In relation to migrant children it was pointed out that many of them, in both government and independent schools, were handicapped by some difficulty with the English language. Of the 50,000 migrant children surveyed, 32 per cent had this kind of problem. The greatest area of problem and the most frequently occurring type of difficulty involving 76 per cent of the migrant school children involved was in the comprehension of English and difficulty in reading and speaking. In short, this comes back to what I said at the outset when I referred to communication. Difficulties in reading, writing, speaking and comprehension persisted throughout the surveys, and these are points which are dealt with by the Bill now before the Senate. Taking the matter of communication a step further, the subjects most affected by a migrant child's difficulty with English were those in which some form of communication was involved.

Looking briefly at the adult education field, and referring again to the surveys and to the Government's programme, the provision of an education service to enable adult migrants to learn the English language goes back as far as the beginning of the post-war immigration programme in 1947. The start which was made in those days has been developed into what we now know as the Australian situational method. This method seems to prefer a pattern involving the use of phrases and sentences rather than a grammatical translation in words or groups of words. The sentence pattern is also set into context by everyday situations. Bringing this whole matter up to date, I refer to the policy speech by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in 1969 when he made an announcement concerning the Government's intention to take further initiatives in promoting and accepting responsibility for undertaking the expansion of English education programmes. The Prime Minister referred to 3 headings at that time. He said that the Commonwealth had undertaken the responsibility for financing the expansion of existing facilities for the instruction of adult migrants; the provision of intensive full-time English language courses for those who must know English in order to follow occupations; and special classes in existing schools for migrant children of all ages to ensure that they achieved the education to which their intelligence and natural skills entitled them. These were reflected in the speech of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) in another place on 23rd April 1970. On that occasion the Minister said:

New areas of need have become evident, and whilst there have been practical reasons in the past to concentrate on speaking and understanding the English language, the comprehensive programme now proposed will provide for more emphasis in the future to be placed on reading and writing English, on meeting the individual needs of migrants and on their citizenship education. In recent years there has been increasing concern over the extent to which migrant children are handicapped by English language difficulty - particularly in school subjects in which verbal communication between pupil and teacher plays a predominant part.

Two important points emerge from that statement, the first of which is (he importance of the English language to migrants, and the second of which is that this legislation contains effective methods to deal with something that is rather more than a language problem. Looking first at the importance of the English language to migrants one might well ask: ls English necessary? In that respect I refer to the background paper of Professor Connell given last year at the Austraiian Citizenship Convention. Professor Connell titled his paper 'Education for Adult Migrants' and in it he said:

The genera) purpose of education is to enable a person lo become more effective in the society in which he lives. To do this, it should provide him, broadly, with four kinds of opportunities: to communicate his thoughts effectively, lo understand thi' way in which his society functions, to prepare adequately for a vocation, and to develop and maintain his physical well-being. Communication, social understanding, vocational preparation, and physical development are the basic ingredients of all programmes of general education. They apply to the education of all citizens, including migrants.

Three background factors to the question of whether English is necessary are communication, social understanding and vocational preparation. A recent survey of unemployed male migrants indicated that language problems are the most common single factor involved in a migrant's securing suitable employment. The survey established that unfortunately not all the migrants subject of the survey had attempted as actively as they might have done to attend English classes. In studying this area we enter the field of the mental health of migrants. A survey of migrants admitted to psychiatric hospitals showed that language difficulties were a major contributing factor to breakdowns. Apparently male and female migrants were particularly affected when isolation occurred, lt was established that early breakdowns occurred much more commonly amongst migrants who could speak little or no English. I support the reasons put forward by Professor Connell as a general answer to the question: 'ls English necessary?"

The second point that arises in dealing with that question is that more than a language problem is involved, because it cannot in the whole sphere of communication be separated from the larger problem of integration. Language is a part of culture. Words are meaningless unless accompanied by an understanding of the society in which people live. To learn the meanings and concepts of English words is to understand only part of what I might call the host culture; that is, a culture that is different from that of the pupils. Concepts, ideas, habits, expressions and values are all part of the cultural area. An important consideration is whether migrant children, to whom this Bill particularly refers, face special problems because of what I have seen described as a culture conflict. Most writers on the subject of integration refer to the frequent occurrence of what I will call inter-generation tension or intercultural tension, which may lead to a point of culture conflict.

Australia is not the only country to experience this conflict and is not the only country to carry out surveys and to establish means of dealing with it. A big study in this field has been proceeding for some time in the United States of America. The many clauses of the Bill provide great opportunities. They open up not only the whole world of communication but also the flow of educational, social, vocational, health, cultural and mental benefits, and of course the benefits of citizenship. These flow from the process of integration of a newcomer into the Australian community. Undergirding the education programme outlined in the Bill is the matter to which I referred at the beginning of my speech, and which will contribute to the programme's ultimate success. I have in mind the important steps that are being taken not only within Australia but also overseas at what in migrant terms is the preembarkation stage, lt is not always possible to carry out surveys in a great number of areas of an education programme, and they would not necessarily contribute to the effectiveness of such a programme.

In Europe the Inter governmental Committee on European Migration arranges a vast range of class and correspondence instruction. I have seen it first hand, as other honourable senators who have visited Europe in the last 2 or 3 years may have seen, the work carried out by ICEM in the interests of migrants to Australia in respect of the English language and communication. In Turkey, Greece, Italy, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Yugoslavia and elsewhere a variety of classes and courses dealing with the English language are conducted, some by ICEM, some by the Department of Immigration and others in association with various agencies and instrumentalities. They all form part of the background of an effective attempt by the Australian authorities to ensure that migrants to Australia at least have an opportunity to acquire a knowledge of the English language and an improvement in the general area of communication.

The Bill also deals with reception centre activities, courses in industry, and the use of radio and television. References occur to language laboratories, capital equipment, living allowances, the provision of teachers and the important sphere of research. Research must be constantly undertaken and confidently pursued. The area of language includes not only scholastic progress but also the educational process. Needs change as the pattern of migration and population occurs and develops. In the United Kingdom the Birmingham Education Authority has developed one of the leading research centres in the area of the English language and communication. It has what it calls a resource centre. Techniques are being developed there for a programme of migrant language instruction. 1 suggest that such techniques could well have application to Australian requirements.

In total immigration is an area of national activity which is undergoing a series of changes and studies at present. Complex questions are involved in determining an optimum size and distribution of population. A cost benefit analysis could enable the Government to structure an immigration programme in accordance with population considerations. The many efforts made over the years in our immigration programme are reflected in the Bill. In contradiction to the terms of the amendment proposed by the Opposition migrant education has proceeded in various forms and degrees of intensity over the years. It has not commenced only with the introduction of this Bill. Rather is it receiving confirmation by this Bill.

Senator Mulvihillproperly pointed out that on visits to European countries we are confronted with embarrassment because of our inadequacy to communicate. I sometimes wonder when we refer to the necessity to train migrants in the English language whether it might, not be a good idea for some of us, if we could find the time and the opportunity, to acquaint ourselves rather more with the languages of the countries from which migrants come to Australia. This has an area of difficulty, as I found personally only last week-end when I was endeavouring to make myself understood to a group of German people. Integration is a two-way process. We talk about the integration of migrants into the

Australian community. We need to develop an appreciation of their own language. As I said just now, if our circumstances and our time pattern allow we would do well to have some knowledge of their language, what it means to them and how it affects their general culture. This would mean also a very welcome growth of the ethnic groups in the Australian community as they assist to make the migrant feel at home and to feel a greater degree of stability as he moves into the Australian community. This also is involved in the total study not only of the English language but also of all other languages.

I think we should say that the Bill is concerned not only with either education or immigration policies as such but also with fundamental social rights These rights have been set out in the United Nations Universal Declarations oi Human Rights. As immigrants are confronted with the impact of social and economic upheaval they and their children must make a rapid and complete adjustment to a new society, to new attitudes, to new values and to new resources, all of which are different to what they have previously experienced. I suggest that the main objective of the Bill is the human well being of the new citizens in the Austraiian community, to enable them to take advantage of the opportunities which Australia provides.

In reference to the amendment moved by the Opposition, I refer honourable senators to the speech of the Minister for Immigration when concluding the debate in another place. He referred >o the fact that expenditure on immigration education has been mounting progressively through the years, and with it the services provided. The Minister pointed out that expenditure this year on migrant education represented an increase of 166 per cent over the funds available last financial year. A recital of an increase in funds does not necessarily mean that there has been a greater extension of the facilities, but from the incidence which I have quoted and from my knowledge of the programme it is true in this case that the extra money which has been spent provides not only for an extended range of educational benefits but also for a greater number of people to receive those benefits. In these terms I support the measure.







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