13 March 2023

Flack over Government's first step in multicultural policy review

| Chris Johnson
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The review of Australia’s multicultural policy will consider the effectiveness of existing federal settings and service designs. Photo:

The Federal Government has launched its review process into multicultural policy, receiving criticism soon after for not letting multicultural groups and leaders know about it.

The draft terms of reference for the Multicultural Framework Review were recently released, flagging that a panel led by a member of the Australian Multicultural Council will report to Multicultural Affairs Minister Andrew Giles by the end of the year.

“The review will advise the Government on what institutional and policy settings can best build Australia’s multiculturalism over the next decade,” the draft terms of reference state.

“It will also identify how to better meet the needs of Australia’s increasingly diverse society.”

The Government says a reference group to support the panel will include representation from people with “lived experience in or supporting multicultural communities”, and other key government and non-government stakeholders.

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It will consider the effectiveness of existing federal policy settings and service designs, as well as the roles of government and non-government organisations.

The review will also scrutinise current federal diversity, equity and inclusion strategies.

“This ensures the Australian Public Service workforce reflects multicultural Australia,” it says.

The Government insists now is the time to consider the existing institutional and policy framework.

It suggests that with Australia recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an important opportunity to “capture and reflect on the lessons learned” about how government supports culturally and linguistically diverse communities in crises.

The notice calls for submissions to comment on the draft terms of reference, with a closing date of 19 March.

But the Government didn’t notify the multicultural community about the launch of the terms, sparking outrage from multicultural groups.

Some groups have subsequently started their own consultation processes, scrambling to gather enough feedback to inform the Government before its deadline closes.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia is consulting with its members and stakeholders while lamenting the short time available for comment.

The African Australian Advocacy Centre and the Australian Egyptian Forum Council have also publicly expressed their unease with the process and lack of consultation.

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Other community advocates too are rushing to alert as many people as possible about the consultation, saying that few are aware of it and the little information about it is written only in English.

The information listed only in English on the Department of Home Affairs website uses terminology some are finding difficult to understand.

But the department has noted that the call for submissions is for the draft terms of reference only, with submissions for the substantial review yet to be announced.

According to the 2021 Census, Australia is now a majority migrant nation, with more than half of residents (51.5 per cent) either born overseas or having at least one parent born overseas.

More than 5.5 million Australians speak a language other than English at home.

The Scanlon Foundation Research Institute’s 2022 Mapping Social Cohesion Report points to wide community support (88 per cent) for multiculturalism in Australia and an equally strong belief among Australians (87 per cent) that immigrants are good for the economy.

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Stephen Saunders4:39 pm 14 Mar 23

The reality is, the Labor Government has already decided on the most radical immigration program in Australian history, with net migration expected to cruise well past 300,000 in 2022-23. Giles’ review is somewhat after the fact.

In that context, it is incredibly disappointing, that you would cherry-pick Scanlon, as indicative of voter support. They are just a shill for mass migration. Every reliable poll taken during or since COVID (TAPRI, Essential, ANU, AFR, etc) is quite clear – voters did not want, and do not want, a return to Big Australia migration levels.

I think the government still has the old “Populate or perish” idea in their head.

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