Community groups welcome government's multicultural position

20 Mar 2017By Michelle Rimmer

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People walk on Flinders Street in Melbourne (AAP)

SBS World News Radio: Migrant support groups and community leaders have praised the Federal Government's landmark multicultural report, which promotes shared values for Australians of all ethnic backgrounds.

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Newly arrived refugees say a focus on all migrants learning English will help them to integrate and find jobs.

Syrian refugee Younan Odesho says he remembers the first words he heard in English: "Australia is a free country".

He's been attending beginner English languages since he landed in Australia in January.

A senior teacher in Syria, Younan says it's challenging returning to the other side of the desk as a student.

"It is very hard. In my country I taught maths, I finished uni. After I came to Australia I started again."

Armandeep Singh, from the federation of Indian Associations of ACT, says for refugees like Younan, not speaking English can limit job prospects in Australia.

"I tell them, mate you've got awesome expertise in your own field. You may be a good plumber or a geographical engineer, but you need to work on your English so that you should be able to sell what you know."

The importance of learning English is a key message in this year's Multicultural Statement: 'Releasing Multicultural Australia - United, Strong, Successful'.

Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia chairman Joe Caputo agrees that language plays a crucial role in social cohesion.

But he says the government needs to take action to ensure all migrants have access to fundamental language programs.

"We have to make sure that no one is left behind in this story. We have to make sure that there are infrastructures being built. We have to make sure make sure that policies such as a national language policy be put in place to ensure that this success story becomes even better in the future."

But Australia's values and culture are another lesson entirely for new arrivals.

The multicultural report focused on the importance of shared values of freedom and social cohesion.

Migration Council of Australia Chief Executive Officer Carla Wilshire contributed to the multicultural report,

She believes social cohesion is the key to ensuring a safe and prospering nation.

"One of the things that the statement really does well is it outlines that social is a really important part of our long-term fabric in terms of the safety and security of our nation, but also in terms of our prosperity. And it really hits home around the economics of migration and why that's been so important to the Australian economy."

 

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