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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 4076

Mr BIRRELL (PORT ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) Can the Minister for Immigration confirm that the Melbourne education task force has advised him that only 20 per cent of Melbourne's non-English speaking migrant children are receiving adequate educational opportunities? Would these opportunities be improved substantially by the grants for disadvantaged schools recommended in the report of the Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission? Does the Minister anticipate that serious harm will be done to the migration program and to the capacity of migrant children to take advantage of the opportunities open to them in Australia if the Government is forced to divert to schools which are already highly privileged, the funds which were to have made up the Karmel Committee grants?

Mr GRASSBY (RIVERINA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Immigration) - Every task force that has so far reported to me on migrant matters in all the States has emphasised that the first priority is to correct some of the grave deficiencies in migrant education. The survey to which the honourable member has referred was jointly sponsored by the Australian Government and the Victorian Government and referred to inner city schools, particularly in Melbourne. So the need has been validated by both governments. At the meeting of Immigration Ministers in Adelaide just recently, it was unanimously accepted that a new thrust and a new effort would have to be made to correct some of the serious deficiencies in migrant education.

The situation is that classes are being held in some instances in shower recesses. In one Queensland school the language class for migrant children is held in a cellar, and there is a series of desks made out of trestle tables. The need is urgent. There is no doubt that there is a need to implement urgently the recommendations of the Interim Comittee of the Australian Schools Commission, and any delay in bringing about these desirable improvements will bring widespread and deep resentment and, I think, would be opposed by all of the State Ministers who also are concerned to see improvements in this direction.

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