At a multicultural media on Wednesday August 30, the Federal Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, announced a commitment of $15 million over the next two years for community language schools.

The grants will open Friday, September 1, and application forms which “will be easy to complete”, will go live on Grant Connect.

Over 700 language schools right across Australia may benefit from the new grants, according to Giles.

“This programme will be tailored to all different language schools, recognising the diversity of engagement in all our communities that makes our modern multicultural society, from very small schools to very large ones.

“I believe there is one such school with 3000 students; obviously, most have much smaller enrolments.”

Giles said that community language schools cater to the needs of established communities such as the Greek “and have relevance to some new and emerging communities.”

“Community language schools have played a particularly effective role in keeping Australians connected to culture and to one another”, Giles added.

No accord on languages in Australian universities

Neos Kosmos asked why there was no reference to languages in the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report, recently launched by the Minister for Education Jason Clare.

The Interim Report talks only of First Nations languages for training in areas like health services. It makes no mention of any other language learning.

Given Minister Clare’s narrative around skills for the future, ‘would not language learning be crucial?’ asked Neos Kosmos.

Minister Giles said that being multilingual has “cultural importance to a society like ours.”

“We know more broadly the benefits, economically and socially, of being multilingual. This is a good thing in, and of, itself. ”

The minister pointed to language tuition as part of that broader discussion and said that was why his government made this commitment.

He recognised that the Greek community fought to save Modern Greek at Latrobe University, which was about to be cut.

It was the same for the Indian community for Hindi and the Indonesian for Bahasa.

“In the university area, and I know this has been a particular concern in recent times, and indeed, your readers would be aware of the debate surrounding the continuing study of Modern Greek at Latrobe University, a discussion that extended to Hindi and Bahasa as well.

“I am pleased that after a strong community response, the initial decisions – [by Latrobe University] – were reversed.”

Neos Kosmos, Giles said, was in “good company” because, in The Economist this week, “the big focus is on the fact that over the last ten years, fewer people are studying Mandarin.”

“I do think there does need to be a broader debate not only about the retention of language and language acquisition from newer communities but also how we, as a society, engage in ideally being multilingual as well as a multicultural society.”

“This is not an Australian debate only, but in a society like ours, where more than half of us are, either born overseas, or have parents born overseas, it has a more immediate connection.”

Multicultural communities engagement in First Nations Voice to Parliament Referendum set for October 14

Given the announcement on the same day, by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of the First Nations Voice to Parliament Referendum on October 14, Neos Kosmos asked about a ‘perceived’ lack of awareness and confusion in many multicultural communities, and a lack of engagement with, and advertising in multicultural media, by the “Yes23” campaign.

This masthead added that it took the position to support the “Yes” camp ‘not without debate’.

Neos Kosmos said the discussion looks like it is carried out mainly in the mainstream media, and among those living within a 20-kilometre radius of city centres, and Canberra.

The minister, a “strong supporter” of the “Yes” campaign, said he was “appreciative of the role Neos Kosmos has taken on an editorial level.”

He added that engagement with multicultural communities is “more uneven” than the “question suggested.”

“We see a significant variation, partly because of my role as a local member in a very diverse community and as I go around the country.”

He listed examples like the launch of “multicultural communities to ‘Yes’ in Perth last Sunday, which was well attended” by the ‘full diversity’ of communities.” Giles talked of similar events he attended in Darwin and Springvale in Melbourne, which also reflected the full diversity of Australia.

He called it an “uneven spread of engagement.” Giles said that it was “not driven by data,” he observed that a distinction is borne around “the timing of migration journeys” in multicultural communities, and that it mirrors the “variation in the age profile of voters.”

However, Giles did concede that the “Yes23” campaign “could be doing better.”

He emphasised the significance of engaging with multicultural media, given that “the Australian population consumes different media.”

The minister called multicultural media a trusted source close to their communities, and anyone who wants to promote ideas should know that.

“Multicultural media is a source that is trusted and close to communities.

“I think anyone interested in communicating ideas must understand that. That is why I am speaking to you today.”