This long awaited policy appeared without much fanfare on the website of the ACT Office of Multicultural Affairs just before the ACT government went into caretaker mode in the lead up to the upcoming ACT election.
The policy makes a number of commitments to promote, enhance and safeguard the language skills in the ACT community. These include to:
- work with the ACT languages sector to promote the benefits of languages education and influence positive attitudes towards languages education in our community
- encourage schools to be aware of and value language learning outside the school – in the home, the community and in after-hours programs
- encourage all Canberrans to learn languages in addition to English
- make every effort to retain, preserve and use Australian languages in the ACT region
- provide interpreting and translation services and use plain English to ensure access and equity to programs and services provided directly by the government or through NGOs
- make English language programs readily available to Canberrans who need to improve their English proficiency (oral and/or literate)
A copy of the policy can be found at www.dhcs.act.gov.au/multicultural/publications
While quite brief and short on detail about funding or how implementation can be measured, the policy is nevertheless a clear statement of the ACT government’s commitment to develop the language skills of all Canberrans and to acknowledge and value the vital role of languages in personal, family, community and economic life.
It is therefore to be hoped that whatever government comes to power after 20 October accepts the main thrust of the policy and acts upon it.
Meanwhile, why not become involved in monitoring the implementation of the policy and adding to its effectiveness? Policies cannot bring about change on the ground without organisational and community input and support.
If the actions of the ACT government and its agencies do not measure up to policy rhetoric, consider making your views known to the agencies concerned and to the ACT Office of Multicultural Affairs (email: nic.manikis @act.gov.au). Individuals, groups and organisations might also consider using the policy as a basis for applying for governments funding and support!