The ACT Government developed the Multicultural Strategy 2010-2013 to promote multicultural harmony in the ACT. The strategy can be accessed at the following website: http://www.dhcs.act.gov.au
The Directorate continued to support the strategy through a number of activities under its six focus areas: Languages; Children and young people; Older people and aged care; Women; Refugees, asylum seekers and humanitarian entrants; and Intercultural harmony and religious acceptance.
Curriculum Requirements in ACT public schools P-10 policy required all ACT public schools to provide a languages program for a minimum specified time to all students in years 3 to 8 from 2011. This was in addition to language programs already on offer in the early years and in years 9 to 12. All primary schools provided a languages program with a minimum time allocation of 60 minutes per week for all students in years 3 to 6. All high schools taught at least one language with a minimum time allocation of 150 minutes (one line) per week for all students in years 7 and 8. A Language Pathway Plan was developed to ensure continuity of the language pathways in clusters through each primary and high school and college.
Eight languages were taught in ACT public schools: Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
The successful implementation of mandatory languages instruction saw an increase in the number of students learning a language in public schools from 11,091 in 2008 to 21,631 in 2011: an increase of 95 percent.
The Directorate supported the involvement of public school students in a number of events to facilitate student engagement with languages and studies of Asia. These included the events organised by several embassies: Japanese Fun Day, Japanese Film Festival, Korea Day, Asia Pacific Day, Indonesian Day and Chinese and Korean language competitions. Public school students from kindergarten to year 7 participated in a French poetry competition.
Teachers from public schools attended learning events such as the two-day French language teachers' conference and a workshop for teachers of Indonesian.
The Directorate renewed memorandums of understanding with:
- Taipei Economic and Cultural Office to provide a full-time Chinese language assistant at Canberra High School for two terms in 2012
- Hanban China for a full-time Chinese language assistant to assist teachers of Mandarin Chinese at Mawson Primary School, Melrose High School and Canberra College in 2011-12.
The Directorate contributed to the living allowance, visa and health insurance cost of the assistants.
The Directorate supported the ACT Community Language Schools Association through the provision of after-hours professional learning sessions for 80 teachers in 2011. Professional learning sessions were also provided in 2012. Professional learning was well received as a means of improving the quality of languages programs. The Directorate continued to meet with the Community Languages Forum on a regular basis to support languages programs.
Children and young people
Introductory English Centres
Introductory English Centres (IECs) are a system resource co-located in mainstream schools. The short term program is designed to support newly arrived students with minimal English language skills through intensive English language teaching prior to entry into mainstream schooling.
The intensive English language program was delivered in small classes and was staffed by specially trained English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EALD) teachers and schools assistants. Transport to and from a primary IEC was provided to eligible permanent residents and some temporary residents.
EALD students in the primary IEC programs transfer to a mainstream school after two terms (20 weeks) with the possibility of an extension to three terms (30 weeks) in the IEC program.
The secondary IEC offers a three levels program based on English language proficiency: Pre-intermediate, Intermediate and Advanced. Placement in the appropriate level of the program is based on the initial assessment. Students at Pre-intermediate, Intermediate and Advanced levels attended the secondary IEC for 30, 20 and 10 weeks respectively.
In response to growth and development in the West Belconnen and Gungahlin regions, a new Belconnen primary IEC was opened at Charnwood-Dunlop School in January 2012. Between January and June 2012, 50 new students were enrolled in the program.
In 2011-12, there were four primary IECs and one secondary IEC in the ACT:
- Belconnen IEC at Charnwood-Dunlop School
- Northside IEC at North Ainslie Primary School
- Southside IEC at Hughes Primary School
- Tuggeranong IEC at Namadgi School
- secondary IEC at Dickson College.
During 2011-12, 427 new students were enrolled in the IEC programs: 114 in the secondary program and 313 in the primary programs.
The Refugee Bridging Program
The College Bridging Program at Dickson College caters for students, aged 16 and over, from a refugee background. The program was developed to support young refugees who face a range of social, cultural, English language and literacy challenges when entering the college sector. The program focuses on English language, academic support and the broader welfare of the student. To participate in the program, students are required to have a minimum standard of English but may still have significant English as a second language (ESL) and literacy needs.
Box C22.1: Refugee Bridging Program
"Water was coming on board. We had to get it out with buckets to stop from sinking."
Young achievers from Dickson College's Refugee Bridging Program were recognised at a special awards ceremony early in 2012. Each student received a Country Women's Association grant of $350 for displaying courage and determination in completing their studies.
One recipient, Mohammad Mohammadi, was grateful to all of his teachers, his principal and Australia for giving him the opportunity to learn. The 18 year-old Afghan national said he had spent most of his life fleeing religious persecution.
"Every day I walked out the front door I wondered if I will come home again that night," he said. "Our people were getting targeted and killed, we were always at risk and we had no access to government services like hospitals and schools."
Mr Mohammadi enrolled in Dickson College's Refugee Bridging Program in 2011 after arriving in Australia by boat. He had spent six days and nights travelling across storm-swept oceans with 150 other people.
"On the boat, women and children had been sick, with no food or water. A big storm came in the middle of the night and water was coming on board. We had to get it out with buckets to stop from sinking."
"When I arrived in Australia, I could not believe I had survived the risks and danger. It was like a dream," he said. "I am so happy now that I worked hard to learn English, that I can speak, I can write and I can understand. It is such a pleasure for me to improve my studies here."
"I hope I will complete my education and become a useful person for the society and for my family, so I can have a happy life here."
In 2011, seven refugee students completed their Year 12 Certificate – the majority of whom had accessed the program to a great extent in their first year of college. Four of those students went to CIT for further study in aged care and childcare; another started an auto apprenticeship; one moved interstate and another found employment. A further four students returned to attend year 12 again to improve their English and confidence.
The program worked collaboratively with a number of stakeholders and partners in 2011-12: ANU; Amnesty International; and the Australian Portrait Gallery.
Older people and aged care
The Directorate continued to support older people from multicultural backgrounds through the ACE program. Several ACE courses provided life-long learning and recreational activities for older adults. A complete list of ACE courses available to older people is given in Table C16.1 in Section C16. Directorate activities for older people are also discussed in Section C23.
Directorate activities to promote wellbeing of women are discussed in Section C24.
Refugees, asylum seekers and humanitarian entrants
The Directorate funded a number of courses under the ACE program for refugees, asylum seekers and humanitarian entrants. Details of these courses are given in Section C16. In addition, intensive English language programs were offered at five IECs and at the Dickson College. These programs have been discussed under the Children and young people heading.
A number of courses were funded under the Priority Support Program and Productivity Places Program for skills development of people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.
The Work Experience and Support Program (WESP) of the ACT Government aims to help people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who have difficulty gaining employment because they lack Australian work experience. The WESP aims to equip these people with office skills training and voluntary work placements usually within the ACT Public Service.
The Directorate hosted nine WESP participants in 2011-12. Five of these participants were refugees from the South Sudanese community and had experienced hardships before coming to Australia.
Intercultural harmony and religious acceptance
All students in ACT schools develop their understandings of other languages and cultures through undertaking study of a language other than English in years 3 to 8. The study of languages develops students' capacity to communicate effectively with people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Both the ACT curriculum framework P-10 and the Australian Curriculum emphasised active participation in multicultural environment and intercultural understanding. The new Australian Curriculum included Intercultural Understanding as a General Capability and also emphasised the importance of Australia's engagement with Asia as a curriculum priority for all young Australians to develop a better understanding of the countries and cultures of Asia.
Religious education is the learning of a student in a particular religion, as distinct from the study of different religions. Many schools offer courses in comparative religions where students are able to study belief systems from around the world with no specific focus on a single religion.
Section 29 of the Education Act 2004 provides for the inclusion of religious education in public schools under certain conditions. If parents of a child at a public school ask the principal for their child to receive religious education in a particular religion, the principal must ensure that reasonable time is allowed for the child's education in that religion.
Christian religious education is the only religious education currently requested in the ACT. In 2010, 18 primary schools offered Christian religious education in the ACT. The frequency of lessons and presentation methods varied between schools.
Section 29 is enacted by all ACT public schools and is an example of religious acceptance promoted by the Directorate.
For more information contact:
Learning and Teaching
(02) 6205 7661