01 March 2014

After the Coalition used Australia Day Celebrations this year to call for migrants to learn English, it can now be revealed they have actually cut funding from an organisation providing English speaking classes for new Australians.

During a visit to the Welcome Centre in Adelaide today, Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Michelle Rowland said the Coalition’s $11.5 million cut to multicultural funding had affected the organisation’s English language classes.

“The Welcome Centre does fantastic work helping to build socially inclusive communities in South Australia, including offering English language classes to new Australians,” Ms Rowland said.

“The Abbott Government has cut $150,000 of fully budgeted funding from this organisation putting at risk their ability to offer these classes.

“We all know English language skills are critical to maximising participation in our society. If the Government was serious about helping migrants learn English, they would not be cutting funding to English language classes.”

Arefa Hassani, a Hazara Afghan refugee and Welcome Centre English program volunteer, said: ”English lessons make significant contributions to a migrant’s life. Not being to able to communicate is a huge barrier, and communication is essential to almost everything.”

Ms Rowland said the calls from the Government for new Australians to speak English and their cruel cuts to this program show how hypocritical their approach to multiculturalism is.

“Senator Fierravanti-Wells used Australia Day this year to demand migrants learn to speak English, but her Government is cutting funding to help these people learn English.

“The Coalition’s hypocrisy is staggering. If they were serious about helping new Australians learn English they would properly fund these programs and reverse their savage cuts to the Building Multicultural Communities Program,” Ms Rowland said.

Kate Leaney, Welcome Centre Manager and full-time volunteer, said: ”Social isolation is one of the most debilitating struggles that asylum seekers and new arrivals face. The provision of English classes combats this problem by offering more an opportunity for language acquisition; but by also providing access to social support, building confidence and drawing people out of their homes and into community.”