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Tuesday, 27 March 1973
Page: 683

Mr MATHEWS (CASEY, VICTORIA) - I ask the Minister for Immigration a question which arises from his visit yesterday to an inner suburban school in Melbourne. Is he aware that the Assistant Director of Education in charge of staffing Victorian secondary schools has issued a circular advising school principals that there is to be no increment over 1972 levels in the migrant English teacher staff of any particular school? Does this circular go on to say that since teachers trained in the teaching of English as a foreign language have other teaching methods they may not be used to teach English to migrant children if this leaves vacancies in relation to their other methods? Is the Minister able to reconcile these instructions with claims by the Victorian Minister for Education that he realises English teaching to migrants is of great importance to certain schools, particularly those in inner suburbs?

Mr GRASSBY - It is true that I visited an inner suburban school in Melbourne yesterday. I want to say that I was tremendously impressed with the spirit and the performance of the body of teachers that I met. I do not think that in any school, even in the schools in my electorate, of which I am very proud, I have ever met a body of more dedicated men and women who want to help the children of whom they are given charge. In the school I visited 81 per cent of the children come from migrant families. The teachers in that school have great difficulties. Not only are they acting as teachers, but also they give counsel to parents after working hours. This assistance, given freely in their own time, illustrates their great dedication. I was tremendously impressed.

At the same time the question of additional teachers for migrant children was raised. The last time this was raised - I think, by the honourable member - I indicated that our target for this financial year was to have 1,000 teachers to support the teaching of English in Australian schools. I hope that that figure will rise to 1,500 this financial year. Specifically in answer to the honourable member, I must say I have seen a copy of a directive which seems to me to say: 'We will have migrant and remedial teachers but we will not take any more on the staff, and if there are general shortages we will not appoint those teachers'. That seems to me to be saying: 'We will have them but we cannot appoint them'. This is a puzzle which I have not yet resolved.

I am afraid that in some circumstances, if the Department of Immigration makes funds available to some of these inner city schools for the teaching of English, there will be no accommodation available for this purpose. It seems to me that what we should be doing is seeking a meeting of the Victorian authorities in particular with my colleague the Federal

Minister for Education to determine just what can be done. There is a great deal being done by teachers under impossible conditions. The children need the help and I think we must try to break the deadlock as soon as we can.

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