At the multicultural media budget briefing last night, the Minister for Housing and Multicultural Affairs, Colin Brooks, laid out the Victorian government’s allocations for multicultural Victoria.

Regardless of a tough budget which seeks to pay off Victoria’s “Covid credit card” there was significant support for multiculturalism across all areas it seems.

Brooks said he was “proud of this budget, which in difficult times has invested so heavily in multicultural communities.”

“I am pleased to share with you that the Andrews Labor government will invest $120 million over the next four years.”

Brooks said, “the budget aims to keep our multicultural communities connected with community infrastructure, education, events, and more opportunities.”

Fighting racism and bigotry

He emphasised the strengthening of the “racial and religious tolerance act” in response to the recent rise of “anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”

“We are strengthening the racial and religious tolerance act to make it easier to prosecute any individual who espouses racial hatred or bigotry based on someone’s faith or race.

“It was the Bracks Labor government that introduced the act more than 20 years ago now, and the Andrews government is strengthening it,” minister Brooks said.

In a tilt to the work of multicultural media, the minister announced “$1.5 million over four years for multicultural media organisations” and more significantly “a tripling of the government’s advertising allocation to multicultural media from 5 percent to 15 percent.”

“Thank all of you and the many people in the multicultural media who advocated for that change.

“We’ve listened and made the change and to reflect the important role that multicultural media play in our multicultural society,” Brooks said.

He announced “$2 million to multicultural museums” in support of “the Hellenic Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Chinese Museum and Museo Italiano.”

“There is also $10 million to upgrade and revitalise multicultural business hubs, in Victoria’s largest multicultural precincts, Box Hill, Richmond, China Town, Elsternwick, Dandenong, Oakleigh, Footscray, and Moreland.”

The minister called these multicultural hubs “essential to Victoria’s diversity and vitality.”

Brooks said he was “excited” about one of his “favourite programs” multicultural storytelling.

“To ensure that young Victorians can experience storytelling in their own language we are investing $6.2 million for multicultural story time across Victoria, to strengthen our kids’ connection to their heritage.”

An elephant in the room – housing

Neos Kosmos asked the minister, who also looks after housing, about the $5.3 billion committed to social housing by the Andrews government during the Covid pandemic in 2021.

“It’s ticking along nicely, the big housing build commitment of $5.3 billion is underway and there is about $3 billion out the door, about 7,600 houses completed or on the way, and we have committed to 12,000 social and affordable homes.”

By 2023, the minister expects “to unveil about 3,000 new homes.”

“It is the biggest investment in social and affordable housing build in the state’s history,” Brooks added.

However, with the push by Canberra to ramp up migration in the post-COVID environment premier Dan Andrews has set an ambitious target of one million new houses to be built.

Some of the multicultural media assembled at the Victorian Parliament House to hear on the budget from Minister for Housing and Multicultural Affairs, Colin Brooks and Assistant Treasurer Danny Pearson. Photo: Supplied

“The overall issue with housing across the country is one of supply, we need to have adequate housing supply across town continuum and social housing, is where state government has the most direct input.”

As far as making the one million new dwellings, the minister said that the government and business must “strive to add more supply, not just social and affordable housing, but private dwellings and that means unlocking planning approvals, for development.”

Brooks said that the government is doing a “great job in making sure we have precinct structures in place.”

“We have to have a close look at our planning systems” including rezoning and “getting that balance right” he said, was part of the government’s agenda.

“People have realised that the price of housing is getting out of reach for their children and are looking to governments across the country to try to fix that problem.”

Brooks praised the federal Labor government for its efforts to coordinate housing policies and bring housing ministers together to find solutions that would “better protect renters” and make housing more affordable.

Multicultural festivals engines of creative Victoria

Neos Kosmos asked if there was an opportunity to combine Creative Victoria and multicultural affairs to improve funding for multicultural festivals, as they often receive less support in the creative industries sector. The minister said it was a “good question” and reiterated his belief that “Victoria does multiculturalism better than any other state and festivals and events are a key drawcard.”

Neos Kosmos asked if there are any discussions envisaged with Creative Industries Minister, Steve Dimopoulos about establishing a more coordinated effort between these festivals and the arts.

Assistant Treasurer Danny Pearson intervened. He reflected on the collaboration between Museum Victoria, the Greek Community, and the National Archaeological Museum of Greece during Open Horizons: Ancient Greek Journeys and Connections and expressed the potential for developing more programs like that in the future.

A multicultural budget at a glance

– $40 million over four years for the Multicultural Infrastructure Fund to upgrade, renovate and build multicultural and multifaith community facilities and multicultural museums.

– $17 million to upgrade and revitalise business and cultural hubs in Victoria’s multicultural precincts, provide grants to multicultural trader associations and for scholarships to help train staff to fill jobs in these precincts.

– $12 million to communities for “27 festivals and events that offer important connections for multicultural and multifaith communities.”

– $9.8 million for multicultural support programs including the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, and the Bachar Houli Foundation.

– $6 million to fund anti vilification campaigns “to combat Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”

– $1.5 million “over four years to support the work of multicultural media organisations and a tripling of proportion of expenditure of government advertising from 5 percent to 15 percent.”

– $6 million to strengthen and extend language provision in Community Language Schools and select government schools, including by establishing three new beacon schools offering Hindi and Punjabi language subjects.