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Thursday, 8 March 1973
Page: 356

Mr MATHEWS (CASEY, VICTORIA) - My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. It arises from the aspect of migrant education which 1 raised with him at question time on Tuesday.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Another Dorothy Dixer?

Mr MATHEWS - No, not this time. Did the Victorian Director of Education say on Wednesday that no additional teachers would be employed under the Child Migrant Education Program until general teaching requirements had been met? Does he believe that the program can succeed in the face of this indifference to the needs of the migrant child? Will he consider amending the Child Migrant Education Program so that where State governments refuse to employ English language teachers the Commonwealth Teaching Service will do so?

Mr GRASSBY - The honourable member for Casey raised this question earlier this week and I gave him an undertaking that I would call for an urgent report on the situation in Melbourne. I have seen the report to which the honourable member refers and which states that the State Director took the view that until general teaching facilities had reached a standard he wished them to reach no action would be taken in relation to migrant education. If this report is correct the State Director has a very strange attitude because in some classes 75 per cent of the pupils are, in fact, migrant children. I have been advised also that in one case there has been such concern about migrant education that a teacher has given his services without pay for some time in order to help the children. This obviously must give us all a reason for really great concern.

I cannot understand the philosophy which says that, although a class of 75 per cent migrant children needs to be looked after, until the general staffing is adequate the children will just sit. This is an unreasonable attitude and I hope that it is not the official view of the Victorian Department of Education. Representations have been made not only by the honourable member for Casey but also by the Victorian Council of Churches, the Victorian Federation of Mothers Clubs and many people in the community and I share their concern. I hope that the report today, perhaps, will indicate that there is a hope of ending the situation quickly. It must be ended because otherwise children literally will be doing nothing. This was the whole purpose of the Commonwealth entering this sphere. I hope that this action has the support of all sides of the Parliament and that there will be a special effort to help migrant children.

The honourable member suggested that perhaps the Commonwealth should have some sort of special task force to be applied in particular areas where no proper action is being taken. That situation could be considered if the States said: 'We are not interested in migrant education. We do not want to cooperate. We do not want to help'. If any State says that, the Commonwealth will have to consider moves along the lines of giving special assistance directly from the Commonwealth. I would hope that that situation does not and will not appertain. I share the honourable member's concern and I will see whether today I can obtain the urgent report I called for and initiate action to resolve the problem of migrant education in schools in Melbourne.

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