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Tuesday, 16 February 1971
Page: 49

Mr DALY (Grayndler) - I move the following amendment:

That all words after 'That' be omitted with a view lo inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not refusing to give the Bill a second reading this House condemns the Government for the delay in providing a comprehensive programme of migration education, adequate finance facilities and capital equipment, including buildings.

The provisions of this legislation were outlined fully in a preliminary statement by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) to the House on 23rd April 1970 and have been further detailed in his second reading speech. In these circumstances, it is hardly necessary for me to reiterate them in detail. Broadly speaking, however, they provide for an expansion of the migrant education programme for adults and children before and after arrival in Australia, in co-operation with the State education authorities. The Commonwealth is to provide the cost of teachers, certain capital equipment, text books, supervisory assistance, and allowances for migrants studying certain courses, and will give incentives to industry to assist in the educational programme.

The Opposition is not opposed to the general principles of the scheme as we are well aware of the fact that the basis of successful integration or assimilation is communication. Without a knowledge of the language migrants are not only at a distinct disadvantage in respect of employment but also their general participation in community activities and our way of life is denied to them if they are unable to speak and understand our language. The importance of education in the English language to the migrant - adult and child - has been stressed by responsible authorities and migrant organisations ever since the commencement of the scheme, and particularly in more recent years. Successive Immigration Conventions and the Immigration Advisory Council have confirmed that the great barrier to assimilation and integration is the failure of the migrant to speak English and expressed the view that there is a real need for the teaching of the English language at every level for assimilation, social and economic reasons.

As the amendment indicates, the Opposition is far from satisfied with the educational programme to date. It is not so much a criticism of what has been or is being done for migrants in this regard but rather that a more comprehensive scheme has been delayed so long, particularly in view of the constant urging by conventions and immigration authorities. This measure, which is by no means the be-all and endall of the matter, is belated and a long time overdue.

At this stage I pose a few questions in respect of the subject, and some constructive criticisms of the Department and its activities in this field. Firstly, having in mind the Government's sustained drive for migrants, has this aspect of migration been neglected, or at least, has the Department not been insistent enough in the priority that should be given to migrant education?

Provision of educational services to enable adult migrants to learn the English language began in 1947 in the opening days of post-war immigration schemes or, if I may say so, in the infancy of the programme. Since that time, great changes have taken place in the immigration programme, such as increased numbers, differing types of migrants and methods of transport. The fact that more than 50 per cent of the 700,000 migrants requiring instruction in English discontinued the classes would seem to present proof that a new and stimulating approach was needed in this field. These figures should have been an indication to the Department that the programme was falling short of what was required, particularly as lack of communication by language is accepted as the great barrier to citizenship and assimilation. It was evidently not until about 1967 or 1968 that the real seriousness of the situation dawned on the Government and with it the need to provide a scheme whereby the children in schools and those adults whom I might term the waverers, or those who were not highly educated and were unable to learn English, needed a new and comprehensive scheme if they were to do so. This point of view is substantiated by the figures I mentioned earlier and by the fact that only about 22,000 or 23,000 at this date are enrolled in continuation classes, radio and correspondence courses throughout Australia.

Surely, with this problem being stressed by immigration authorities everywhere, including citizenship conventions, advisory councils and other interested parties, a scheme might well have been expected at a much earlier date. Even now, under this scheme there are some glaring weaknesses which I shall show later. For instance, on the question of adult, education under these proposals, the casual migrant, as I shall call him, must be prepared to spend 5 hours a day for 6 weeks in the partly accelerated course at his own expense or 2 hours a week for a period of 18 months a,t a night school course if he desires to learn the language. This is a fairly tough proposal. It must be extremely doubtful, therefore, whether this large section of the migrant force, or a large percentage of it, will benefit by the scheme. When all is said and done, no matter what a person's educational capacity may be, it is essential that he learn the language of his adopted country. Many thousands of migrants have neglected to do this for many and varied reasons, lt has yet to be proved whether the incentive and the expansion of the educational programme as outlined will encourage them to do so. Since 1945 more than 2 million migrants have come to Australia. lt would be an interesting exercise to ascertain how many or what percentage have learned to speak English since their arrival.

Secondly, at a time when every educational body in Australia - State, independent and university - is clamouring for additional teachers, schools and finance, where does the Government consider that the necessary number of teachers will be recruited? lt is estimated that the number of teachers required will be 300, and this at a time when there is an acute shortage of skilled teachers in Australia.

Classes are too big, classrooms are overcrowded and generally speaking the shortage of everything is acute. In fact, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are recruiting teachers from abroad. I am informed that 100 teachers will be required this year, 60 next year and 330 for the year 1971-72. This is a very tall order at a time of acute teacher shortage, so the Minister might indicate what arrangements have been made to recruit them, what are the prospects of securing them, what are the qualifications necessary and what are the reactions of the educational authorities.

Thirdly, what indication has been given that the migrants, whom I would describe as being :on the fringe', that is, those who have no special educational qualifications or inclination but who must know English for employment and other purposes, will be more interested than they have been previously in learning English. Probably the scheme is intended to appeal to them but in what way, as compared with the previous scheme, will it do so. On the surface, it will remain much the same as it is today. Information has already been given to the House that only 47 per cent of the 708,000 migrants who have come to Australia and attended pre-embarkation ship board, continuation or correspondence courses, have completed the course. Even in November 1969 only 14,840 migrants were enrolled in 1,050 continuation classes, and 7,780 migrants were taking combined radio and correspondence courses. In view of the number of migrants involved, these figures are by no means heartening. Will the position be improved under this scheme?

How will this scheme appeal to this section of the migrant population who have neglected to learn English? What incentive is to be given to them? Most of them, no doubt, cannot afford to take time off from work and at night are either too tired or lack the inclination lo spend time to which they are no doubt unaccustomed for periods of 2 hours a week for 18 months. This is not an easy problem, but it certainly merits special attention.

Has the Minister any idea as to what will be the response of industry to participation in the scheme? Will it co-operate? Will the lessons be given in the employers' time or after work? This is important because I believe it will have a distinct bearing on the success or failure of the scheme. These are just a few of the questions one may ask. They are asked not in order to knock the proposals but more in an endeavour to ascertain the depth of the Government's investigations of this subject.

I believe that it would be reasonable to ask industry to participate in a practical way in bringing a knowledge of the English language to this section of the migrant force. After all, industry has benefited a lot from the immigration programme. In fact, to my mind industry has had it on the cheap. It has been provided with employees - sometimes highly skilled - at little or no cost to it. This in turn has resulted in increased production and increased spending and purchasing power. T believe that industries employing large numbers of migrants should, at their own cost, provide classes in English. They should also encourage migrants to learn the language for safety and economic reasons, and it should be done at the employers' expense during working hours.

Industries might also provide some monetary incentive or additional leave, promotion or something of this nature as a further stimulus to overcome the language barrier. I understand that some industrial organisations already are co-operating and providing classes in English along the lines I have suggested, and the scheme might well be expanded. However, the scheme should cover the whole range of industry, and I suggest to the Minister that implementation of an extensive campaign throughout industry along the lines I have mentioned might bring success in the recruitment of migrants to English classes. Today, for a number of reasons, migrants discontinue their classes and their education in the English language.

Comparatively recently two excellent surveys were conducted, one by the Department of Immigration in Canberra and the other by the New South Wales Department of Education, on the question of migrant education and the education of migrant children. These excellent reports, which are available to all and from which quotations have been made in the Parliament, referred to some of the problems confronting people who do not know the English language. I shall quote a few extracts from the reports broadly and quickly in the time available to me in order to give honourable members an idea of some of the problems which face this scheme and which must be overcome if the scheme is to be of great benefit. For instance, the report of the survey conducted by the New South Wales Department of Education in 1968-69 stated:

Migrant children performance in many subjects is affected by their language difficulties.

The predominant groups of migrants with English difficulties are the Italians, Greeks, Yugoslavs - totalling 61 per cent of the sample.

Of those with English difficulties 42 per cent come from homes where it is never spoken and 43 per cent sometimes.

Comparison shows that a significant proportion of migrants with poor school progress came from homes where English is never spoken.

The report of the survey conducted by the Department of Immigration in Canberra stated:

Based on evidence from departmental surveys it would be reasonable to estimate that approximately one-third of foreign bom migrants would be unable to speak English. Applied to the foreign bom migrant population this would mean that some 240,000 migrants would benefit from English language instruction.

That shows the nature of the problem and also indicates that this legislation has to cover a wide field. The report of the survey conducted by the New South Wales Department of Education in 1968-69 on the question of education of migrant children also stated:

Incidence of migrant children in total school population is about 1 in 20 and of the 50,664 reported migrant pupils some 16,452 - 32 per cent - have some type of English language difficulty.

One could quote at great length, from the report of the survey, which was an excellent one, because there are pages which deal with the problems facing these children and the problems which the Department of Education in New South Wales faces in providing education for these children.

As I mentioned earlier, migrant children present a very difficult problem, and one of the most significant statements which have been made on this subject appears in an article by Carolyn Dowling. In an article entitled 'Seen But Not Heard', which was published in March 1968, she said:

The passive, uncomprehending figure whose idleness and blank stare mar the most industrious of classes, is a more common sight, particularly in the lower forms of suburban high schools, than we care to admit.

That, as the Minister quite rightly pointed out, is one of the major- problems confronting us. The survey indicates the severe strain that has been placed on the educational system and on teachers in New South Wales and no doubt throughout Australia. It is difficult for a teacher to transmit knowledge to a child who has very little, if any, understanding of the English language. It is just as unfair to the children who, in many cases, while mentally more advanced that those who know and understand English are forced to languish in lower classes because of this disability. Of course, as I have mentioned, because of the conditions the teachers find the task well nigh impossible and can only do the best they can.

The number of migrant children in schools runs into many thousands, as has been pointed out in these articles and as is indicated by the number of teachers to be recruited. It has certainly taken the Government a long time to realise how unfair it is to teachers, children and State authorities to bring non-English speaking migrants into the country in thousands and leave the full responsibility for their education at every level to State governments and independent schools. The need has been there for a long time and, very belatedly, the Government has evidently realised its responsibility but still baulks at the capital expenditure and at making more extensive grants to the authorities for educational purposes. increased education costs to the States because of the influx of migrant children has given rise in many quarters to the question whether our migration programme should be curtailed. That is one of the major reasons advanced by those who advocate that course. These remarks, critical though they may be, are offered constructively in the hope that the Opposition's views will result in improving the approach of the Government, both financially and practically, in the important field of migrant education. So important is language that 1 submit to the Government that migrant education should be encouraged by a wider range of activities in language and citizenship instruction, as appears to have been clone in Canada. For instance, in Canada classes for language instruction and courses in civic affairs have mushroomed and are conducted under various auspices, such as provincial departments of education, local school boards, service clubs, churches, welfare agencies, universities and ethnic groups.

It is true that there are many variations in the degree, quality and intensity of the courses offered. Some offer education by trained teaching personnel. Others are of a sporadic nature and are guided by volunteers. However, iri spite of all the diversity, there is a common thread running through the courses offered and growing evidence of uniformity amongst all the programmes because of the liaison and help provided by officers of the Canadian Citizenship Branch. Without saying that Canada has the perfect system, surely it is an indication of how much could be done in Australia along these lines. A national campaign seeking the co-operation of voluntary organisations, industries, clubs, progress associations, churches and other sections of the community would be a forward step in the education of migrants. If necessary, some form of financial or material assistance could he given.

Another factor that appears to be overlooked is that, I understand, approximately 60 per cent of the migrant* coming to Australia travel by air and the percentage might increase. This means that unless migrants have pre-embarkation instruction, they land in Australia without any knowledge at all of the English language. This is quite different from the days when practically all migrants travelled by ship and an education officer gave them instruction in the English language. Naturally this has accentuated the problem that we now face.

Clause 3 of the Bill states: capital equipment of an educational nature' includes tape recording and playing equipment, but does not include any building.

This is undoubtedly one of the major weaknesses of the scheme, lt is in line with Government thinking on education generally, in that it fails to take into consideration the overcrowding and in many cases the non-existence of classrooms. Every education authority in the nation is clamouring for money for capital expenditure on buildings. There is nowhere to teach children in many schools, State and independent. Where are the educational classes proposed in this Bill to be assembled? What consideration has been given to the environment in schools for this type of teaching? lt is a specialised teaching requiring special facilities but, most importantly, it requires a suitable type of room. Is it to be expected that the teachers will lump all their equipment into the playground and teach under a tree, or will they teach on a verandah, in a weather shed or some other makeshift accommodation, because unless capital is available this is precisely what will happen? This appears to be the only way out for those who are short of capital.

There can be no excuse whatever for the Government failing to provide funds for capital expenditure on buildings as part of this scheme. As it stands, it means that the Government reluctantly has accepted the fact that it has a responsibility to the children, the States and the teachers to provide some finance for the thousands of migrants who have been brought to Australia, but it is confining it to the very minimum and leaving the responsibility for finding additional capital to the States. This is not good enough, and this is why the Opposition has moved the amendment which indicates that the Government should provide funds for capital expenditure.

The Minister estimates that the cost of the scheme over the next 4 years will total $16m, or $4m a year. The full cost of the migration scheme is extremely high. Only a small percentage will be spent on the education of migrants, yet this is generally accepted as the most important factor in their assimilation. Is it too much to ask that a substantial amount be made available for capital expenditure on buildings to alleviate this problem? Members of the Opposition believe that this should be the most important part of this legislation, quite apart from the provision of teachers, and unless the amendment is adopted we believe the scheme will fail. In his Ministerial statement of 23rd April 1970 the Minister said:

The Government recognises that the ability of migrants to communicate is fundamental to their successful integration. There are short and long term social and human benefits for the migrant and for the community in encouraging and providing the means for migrants to learn English.

Very few would disagree with this sentiment. The question is how do we achieve it and does the legislation now under discussion solve or at least make a major contribution towards this objective. As I have already indicated, I believe it is correct to say that while the legislation proposes an expansion of the present limited programme in the field of migrant education there are many gaps still to be plugged, as suggested by the amendment that 1 have moved.

I have referred somewhat briefly to 2 major considerations in the migrant education problem. First, there are children to be considered and, secondly, adults. A few moments ago 1 quoted from a statement by Carolyn Dowling about migrant children. I believe it is a sound move to give specialised teaching in English in the classroom. This appears to be the ideal place within the school curriculum - in school hours, in school surroundings with the proper textbooks, equipment and environment. It gives the child the opportunity in the right atmosphere to learn the means of communication and fulfil his educational desires according to his capacity as times goes on. I think it is fair to ask the Minister how long it is expected that the classes will function until the child is competent in English. Also, what will be the ages of the children who will attend these classes It is more essential than ever that some form of teaching be introduced to the school when it is considered that the New South Wales survey on this problem revealed that about 47 per cent of the children come from homes where no English is spoken lt is probably true to say that this form of planning, when expanded, must prove of benefit to the child, and particularly to the harassed teacher who is endeavouring to transmit knowledge to a percentage of the class who simply do not know what is being said. The scheme will fail if the Government stints on finance for capital equipment and other essentials.

Then there is the problem of the adults. Members of an Opposition parliamentary committee on immigration recently visited a centre where the intensive scheme was in progress. It was interesting to observe the people who were progressing favourably and quickly and to realise how lack of English had retarded their progress temporarily. One person we met was a dentist by profession but because of his lack of English he was working as a cleaner. A telecommunications technician was working as a kitchen hand. Another person undertaking this expanded course was a research technologist who was working as a laundry worker. Another was a horticulturalist but was presently occupied as a factory worker. I mention these people to indicate the effectiveness of the scheme. It is of value to these people whose experience could benefit this country. Until this intensive scheme was implemented they were denied the opportunity of pursuing their former occupations. This illustrates the need for the provision of proper educational facilities.

Another problem concerns those migrant adults who vary in age from elderly grandparents or parents to those who left school immediately prior to their coming to Australia and who have probably had little or no schooling in their own country. They have no knowledge of English, no English is spoken in their homes and they drift into clubs or into an environment singularly of their own countrymen in the workshops and factories. They fraternise only with those speaking their own language, mainly for convenience and communication purposes. The number involved amounts to hundreds of thousands. The best figure to take is that percentage of the 708,000 mentioned by the Minister who have already received instruction.

Does this legislation do anything to solve or relieve their problem? Is it a practical solution in the long term or is it an effort or contribution made hopefully to encourage them to participate in learning the language? Included in the adults are married women, many of whom do not go to work because of family circumstances. Their contact with English-speaking people is non-existent. How do they get on? Does this scheme propose a solution or an incentive for them? J am inclined to think that it will not touch many of this group. It is appropriate to refer to the excellent report concerning the survey undertaken by the New South Wales Department of Education. It states:

Reasons for delayed enrolment in courses were job commitments, lack of knowledge of courses, or just arrived in Australia. Students' reasons for discontinuance were mainly too busy, shift work, overtime and mobility.

Men gave as their reasons for nonattendance having to work too hard, laziness, overtime and fatigue. Women said that they were too busy at home or had family responsibility. About 97 per cent of the migrant students said they would like more opportunity to talk in English with Australian people. Many of these migrants may never attend an advanced course, perhaps because of lack of educational facilities. What effect does the Minister think that the present proposals will have on this type of migrant without incentives, including permission to attend courses during working hours? The migrants that I have mentioned must have an earnest desire to learn the language. They must have an incentive to improve their economic position. They must have a desire to integrate socially. They must find the time or be able to afford to learn the language either during the day or at night.

I wonder whether any investigations have been made concerning what percentage of migrants in this category, or men and women over school age, really want to learn the language, and what is their intellectual capacity. The Minister has yet to state what effect the scheme will have on those I have mentioned and how many he expects will take advantage of it. Apart from those who really want to progress and learn the language because they are ambitious and anxious to succeed, I believe 2 factors stop people from educating themselves. Those with limited educational ability lack an incentive and they are incapable of finding time to attend classes. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that this problem could be overcome in respect of the men by their employers accepting more responsibility and enabling the men to attend classes in working time. Not only would this benefit the employer but it would make a satisfied citizen of the migrant concerned. To my mind the incentive scheme, in the case of adult men particularly, would appear to be the logical and practical way of achieving the best results. 1 feel that another method that might be applied - and no doubt it already has been to a great extent, but it could be more widely used - is an intensive publicity campaign among non-English speaking migrants on the need to learn the English' language. Every form of available advertising should be used to impress upon these migrants prior to acceptance, embarkation on shipboard or on plane and on arrival how vital it is to learn English in order to enjoy a happy and successful life in Australia. Every industry, every bank, every public office or in fact any medium of publicity should be utilised with display signs impressing the need of migrants to communicate and learn English and advising them how they can go about it. Every migrant should be issued with a special brochure in the language he speaks setting out very clearly, but not too extensively the practical results to be achieved by being educated in the English language. (Extension of time granted). I thank the House and I will not take much longer. Whilst not criticising the objectives and the principles prompting the legislation on the education of migrants, I believe that there are still gaps through which countless thousands of migrants will escape the opportunity to learn English and participate in our community, economic and social life.

Time does not permit me to go over the full range of them. This is set out in the documents which I mentioned earlier. The facts and figures are given. They show that many are suffering and failing to be assimilated into our community because of lack of knowledge of English. These figures are there for all to see and they indicate the major problem. This is a problem which must be faced: we believe it will not be adequately covered by this legislation. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition in the spirit in which it is presented. It is an endeavour to offer a constructive approach to improving the education of adult and child migrants and to relieving the States of some of the responsibility for a national programme of immigration. We should accept our financial responsibility for education, housing and other matters. I offer this amendment as a constructive approach to improve the child and adult education of migrants brought to Australia in a scheme commenced 25 years ago which has always had the sympathy and support of honourable members on all sides of this Parliament. I hope the Minister will see fit to accept the amendment because I believe it will make a major contribution towards overcoming the difficulties in the education of migrants that I have mentioned during the course of my speech tonight.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock (LYNE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Crean - I second the amendment.

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