SA Multiculturalism Bill 2020

Bills, In Parliament, Speeches

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 9 September 2021.)

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (17:08): I rise to speak on the South Australian Multicultural Bill 2020 and indicate I am the lead speaker for the opposition. This bill is for an act to advance multiculturalism and interculturalism in South Australia. It will also establish the South Australian Multicultural Commission and will provide for the South Australian Multicultural Charter, while repealing the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission Act 1980.

In South Australia, we have some 200 different, diverse backgrounds of people who call South Australia home. It has been 40 years since the act of the South Australian and Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission was assented to. The work towards updating the bill began under the previous Labor government and has now progressed, with the bill passing the House of Assembly in May this year.

The opposition is very proud of the key multicultural achievements under the former Labor government, including tripling the budget of multicultural affairs; adding an additional $5 million infrastructure fund for replacement, upgrading and supporting new facilities; supporting major festivals with three-year sponsorship agreements and more than 30 festivals with agreements for multi-year funding; and introducing the Stronger Family Stronger Community grant, as well as simplifying the grants application process and making it bimonthly.

The consultation on this bill was commenced by this government in 2019, with a legislative review of the current act. This was followed by a consultation phase of community forums, a stakeholder workshop, written submissions and a survey. The government utilised the YourSAy engagement platform before a final consultation report.

There are a number of key topics that were presented: modernising the concept of multiculturalism, including removing the word ‘ethnic’ and incorporating the concept of interculturalism; more transparency on the functions and appointment of the commission members; how to update the language and make it more contemporary; the inclusion of multicultural principles, with a charter to be prepared reflecting what multiculturalism means to South Australia; and also recognising the First Nations people of South Australia.

In addition to the consultation that I have just outlined that the government undertook, the opposition held eight Zoom forums and more than 20 meetings with community leaders to understand the key themes and suggestions by our diverse community. There was a considerable concern about a perceived weakening of the functions of the commission, and this was raised by both current and former members of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission (SAMEAC).

Concerns were shared about retaining the role of the commission, not only to brief and report to the relevant minister but to engage with other public sector agencies. The continued independence of the commission was also considered a high priority in order for the commission to provide leadership in addressing the needs and issues of South Australia’s multicultural community. The issue of funding and resources was also raised.

One of the most concerning aspects was the perceived diminished role of the members of SAMEAC during the consultation period. Many commission members reported to the opposition that they were not consulted with as a body, they were merely invited to attend the forums and, as I understand it, to attend the forums mainly as observers.

The government made many amendments to their own bill in the other place before the committee stage commenced. The opposition was very pleased that several of our own amendments were agreed to, including the make-up of the representation of the commission, inserting an expression of interest process for commission members, the acknowledgement of our First Nations South Australians in the parliamentary declaration, and the provision of resources for the multicultural commission.

However, three areas of amendment remain which were not agreed to. First, recognising the contribution that temporary migration has made to multiculturalism and interculturalism in South Australia. Second, raising awareness of the harm that racism can do, making that a function of the commission. This was raised during the consultation period but did not make it into the bill. Third, state authorities to report performance of the charter to the minister and for the report to be tabled in parliament, giving real measurement outcomes of the activation of the charter, because we want the public sector to be a model employer reflecting our diversity.

Several other states and the commonwealth measure and report on the diversity of language and birthplaces other than Australia. It is only through reporting the data that we can identify potential remedies so that we can better reflect our population. I understand amendments from SA-Best have been filed also, and we look forward to considering where we might find mutual agreement. The opposition has filed amendments reflecting those three outstanding matters which we consider to be very important to our South Australian community.

We all know what a great contribution migrants have made to South Australia, migrants coming for a variety of reasons. Many of us in this place are either migrants ourselves or the descendants of migrants in the first or second generations. The contribution that is made is huge. That is why it is so important that we get this bill right. It is so important that, after 30 years without a significant review, we incorporate those aspects that are so crucial in reflecting both our existing community and also where we might like to see South Australia going in the future. I will talk more about each of those aspects in the committee stage.

We welcome this bill and we support the positive intentions to modernise, but there are still further opportunities to make significant gains in diversity and inclusion, and we hope that this chamber will support those amendments when we get to the committee stage.

The Hon. T.T. NGO (17:15): I rise to speak in support and acknowledge the multiparty support of this important bill. The initial bill presented to the other place (the House of Assembly) some months ago was not good. The government practically gutted the heart of the original bill and provided a totally inadequate replacement where all responsibilities were outsourced to the department and public servants.

This multicultural bill is about community. It has always been about the community and not handing all responsibilities back to the departments. The amendments passed in the current form are much better than when it was first presented to the other place. I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the member for Ramsay and the member for Cheltenham in the other place in bringing forward these important amendments. These amendments certainly provide us with a much improved version of this bill.

I would like to also thank the government for acknowledging that the previous multicultural bill was not adequate. I appreciate them supporting these amendments and taking on the feedback from the community.

The multiparty support of this bill speaks strongly for the change in attitude on the other side of the house, and I am pleased that as a state we are making progress in supporting our multicultural communities. However, one important aspect of this bill that was defeated in the other place stands out to me: as leaders, we need to not only conduct strong consultation with our communities but we must listen and act without losing sight of the voices in the local communities we represent.

One aspect that was left out at the amendment stage in the other place was the inclusion of monitoring and reporting of the government’s progress in this space. Those of us in the opposition sought to include an amendment that would require state authorities to report directly to the minister every 12 months about their performance. We also proposed that the minister then summarise these reports and present to both houses of parliament.

Unfortunately, this amendment was knocked back by the government. The government demonstrated that their genuine support for multiculturalism in this matter is very disappointing when they claimed that this monitoring and reporting on our state progress in multiculturalism was not necessary.

In the government’s own SAMEAC public consultation in relation to this legislative review, there was strong support from ethnic communities. Participants specifically requested that:

Government agencies should be held to account for their implementation of the principles and be required to report regularly on compliance with them.

That request was strongly supported, as I said, by participants. It is clearly stated in the government’s own consultation report, and I was very surprised that the government now does not want that request of reporting and transparency to be included in this bill, and I am very surprised because I do not really know the reason why.

Throughout the public sector we observe examples of measuring and reporting that benefit different groups in our society. Within the public sector we report on how many First Nations people are in the Public Service, as is the case for people with a disability and women. Reporting helps the South Australian public sector to be a lead employer, supporting diversity in employment. Reporting helps us understand how far we have come and how far we have to go. Reporting encourages us to think differently and improve our practice, which can only have positive impacts for the lives and opportunities of people in the multicultural community.

We already capture data related to multiculturalism through employee surveys in the public sector. It makes no sense that the government collects this information but does not wish to report on it. What is striking about the government knocking back tracking and reporting in the other place is that they have directly knocked back the input from their own community. Their own community specifically asked that government agencies should be held to greater account, yet they have chosen to ignore this very matter.

To me it is a slap in the face for those multicultural communities that participated in this survey. They have voiced what they believe is important to include in this bill, and the government has rejected it. It seems foolish to conduct a public consultation and then ignore the direct requests of those who were consulted. If the government is serious about improving this multicultural bill, and I think this is really an important opportunity, something as practical and simple as this as this should be included.

As I said previously, I do not understand why the government is rejecting this request. I have not had a briefing, so I am just wondering whether it is because of budgetary implications in the future or if it may be competing with other agency interests if it were to be included in this bill. I look forward to hearing the government’s response regarding this matter, and I do hope they change their mind and accept these as good amendments. It is something the multicultural community wants, as is stated in their report.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:23): I rise on behalf of the Greens to support the South Australian Multicultural Bill 2020. The bill has four main objectives. That is, to introduce a parliamentary declaration that would recognise and acknowledge Australian Aboriginal people as South Australia’s first peoples, as well as cultural, linguistic, racial and religious diversity in our state; that all people have a right to express this diversity and that this diversity should be reflected in the government’s approach to development, implementation and evaluation of policies; that all those in South Australia should be able to participate in the cultural, economic, political and social life of our state and that all people are entitled to mutual respect; that diversity is an asset and a valuable resource and that diversity brings richness and the valuable contribution to our state of those who have diverse backgrounds.

It is a very welcome aspect to this legislation. I note that the Labor Party wants to amplify that and also include the recognition of all migrants and their contribution with an amendment, and I indicate that the Greens will be supporting that amendment.

The bill also establishes the South Australian Multicultural Commission, which of course already exists. This is a bill that came about via a review that was well overdue, and while it was overdue I think it is still important work to be doing. I note that in large part this is very much bipartisan, cross-party, universal work in multiculturalism.

The South Australian Multicultural Commission is to be a body corporate that consists of 15 people appointed by the minister and it should, as far as reasonably practicable, ensure membership reflects an appropriate diversity of cultural backgrounds and gender and have regard to the knowledge, sensitivity, enthusiasm, personal commitment, experience and involvement with culturally diverse groups, and at least half must be women—most welcome. The functions of the commission are:

to advise the minister regarding the act;

to advise and consult with state authorities to ensure a coordinated approach;

to advise the minister regarding the needs, the aspirations and the contributions of South Australians from diverse backgrounds;

to advise state authorities through the minister regarding which services and facilities are available to meet the needs of diverse communities;

to increase the awareness and understanding of the diversity of our state and the implications of that;

to promote unity, understanding and harmony;

to raise awareness and promote understanding of multiculturalism and interculturalism;

to promote the charter and the advantages of a multicultural and intercultural society;

to undertake consultation;

to review and report to extend the government-funded services in terms of what they are achieving and to further the purpose of this act; and

any other functions that are assigned to this by the minister.

I note also that the Labor Party has an amendment to include a function to raise awareness about the harms of racism. The Greens strongly support that amendment and welcome that particular element to the debate. I remember the controversy when I worked for Amnesty International, when the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination became Harmony Day. In many ways, to talk about unity and harmony without recognising racism is to not really encourage unity and harmony. We must recognise that scourge and empower this commission to tackle that most important issue when we know the rise of racism is a pressing concern in our state at the moment. This is something commended by the Greens, and we will be supporting the Labor Party amendments there.

Further, this bill provides for the South Australian Multicultural Charter and ensures that the minister, in consultation with the Multicultural Commission, must prepare and maintain the South Australian Multicultural Charter. That charter should contain the following provisions: principles of multiculturalism in relation to our state, and provisions recognising Aboriginal peoples of South Australia and their role in the diversity of the people of South Australia, such as other provisions that will be required by regulations will also fall under that.

The minister may vary or substitute the charter from time to time, but they must review it every five years. Every state authority must have regard and seek to give effect to the charter, but they will be in breach if the state authority is acting in accordance with a requirement in this or any other act or in circumstances prescribed by those regulations. A failure to comply with the above will not amount to any civil liability.

I note that Labor has amendments to include two additional sections here and that will require state authorities to report to the minister every 12 months regarding giving effect to the charter and also require the minister to summarise these reports and present them to both houses of this parliament. Again, the Greens will be supporting that amendment.

The bill also repeals the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission Act 1980. As has been discussed, this not just modernises the language but modernises our understanding and support for this important work. The Greens welcome the important work done, perhaps a little overdue but we stand with all sides and all colours in this place in supporting our rich and diverse state, in recognising First Nations and their particular place, and valuing the multicultural society we all enjoy and that gives us so much richness and diversity in our state, that brings value to all lives regardless of our cultural background and regardless of our political parties.

With that, we welcome the debate. We will be supporting the bill, but we will also be supporting the amendments that the Labor Party has put up.

The Hon. J.S. LEE (17:30): It is my privilege to rise today to support the South Australian Multicultural Bill and endorse the speech and contributions made by the Treasurer, the Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council. I am also very grateful that the Hon. Rob Lucas, as the leader of the government, has the carriage of this bill in the Legislative Council because not only does he have a great passion and understanding of multicultural affairs but he comes from a multicultural background himself. He also has the historical context of SAMEAC and has observed the changes of our South Australian multicultural landscape since 1982. He is one of the longest serving members of the Legislative Council in this place.

The Hon. C.M. Scriven: Only one of the longest?

The Hon. J.S. LEE: Probably currently the longest. I am delighted to speak on this bill as Assistant Minister to the Premier, working directly with the Premier in the portfolio of multicultural affairs. The South Australian Multicultural Bill is a significant piece of legislation introduced by the Marshall Liberal government to modernise the South Australian Multicultural Ethnic Affairs Commission Act 1980, commonly known as the SAMEAC Act.

South Australia has an impressive history of multicultural development for more than 40 years. SAMEAC is the sole piece of state legislation on multicultural affairs and this bill will strengthen this legacy. I sincerely thank the Premier of South Australia, the Hon. Steven Marshall, member for Dunstan, for his vision and leadership in multicultural affairs in introducing the bill and take this opportunity to also acknowledge the significant contributions by Deputy Premier and Attorney-General the Hon. Vickie Chapman for her articulation of the functions and operations of the commission for the 21st century.

Indeed, I am very pleased that the bill has passed the House of Assembly incorporating amendments moved by our government as well as by the Labor opposition. I thank the opposition and Independent members for showing bipartisan and cross-party support for this important legislation with a shared interest to support multicultural communities in South Australia. I hope—and I have heard the contribution by other members today—that the same cross-party support will be forthcoming in the upper house.

In speaking to this bill, it will be very appropriate to bring some historical context about the development of multiculturalism in this country. Australia, as we know, is widely known as a proud multicultural country but it certainly was not always the case. Many members may recall that our country once upon a time had an unwelcoming policy called the White Australia policy, a term encapsulating a set of historical racial policies that aimed to forbid people of non-European ethnic origin—especially Asians and Pacific Islanders—from immigrating to Australia, starting in 1901.

From migrant communities that are living harmoniously now in Australia we ought to reflect and acknowledge the work by successive governments in their efforts to progressively dismantle the White Australia policy in stages after the conclusion of World War II. The encouragement of the first non-British, non-white immigration allowed for a large multicultural postwar program of immigration. Major policy reforms happened between 1949 and 1973. The Menzies and the Holt governments (1949 to 1967) effectively dismantled the policies between 1949 and 1966, and then in 1973 the Whitlam government passed laws to ensure race would be totally disregarded as a component for immigration to Australia.

In 1975, the Racial Discrimination Act was passed in the federal government, which made racially-based selection criteria unlawful. In the decades since, Australia has maintained large-scale multicultural immigration, which allows people from any country to apply to migrate to Australia, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion or language, provided they meet the criteria set out in the Australian law.

My family and I migrated to Australia at the end of 1979 from Malaysia, and we are forever thankful to successive Australian and state governments for their commitment of open and welcoming multicultural policies. Many cultural communities I work with, and many members you have worked with, I am sure feel the same way. Looking at the important timeline back in 1980, a few years after the abolition of the White Australia policy, it was the Tonkin Liberal government that took a reformist approach and had the vision to establish a South Australian Multicultural Ethnic Affairs Commission, and in doing so set out the commission’s functions and operations.

In 1989, amendments to the act defined multiculturalism in legislation for the first time in Australia, and with the South Australian Multicultural Bill 2020 presented here in parliament it is a piece of legislation that will make our state the first jurisdiction to not only recognise multiculturalism but to recognise interculturalism for the first time in Australia.

Since SAMEAC was established in 1980, honourable members will observe that our population base and demographics have changed significantly. The cultural, linguistic and religious make-up of South Australia has changed. Everywhere we look, whether at shopping malls, schools, university campuses, government departments, community events or sports events, we all witness the vast diversity of our South Australian community. These changes create many new opportunities, as well as challenges, for many of our communities.

No doubt many of us are keen to see what the latest Census data 2021 will inform us as to further changes in our population data in the last five years. With second and third generations of migrant families living, working and enriching our society, the nature of our diversity has changed over the last 40 years since SAMEAC was established; furthermore, the way in which we perceive and value multiculturalism and, more importantly, how our multicultural communities are interacting with one another, how they are developing intercultural relationships and deeper connections with one another and how our diverse communities are helping to shape the future of South Australia.

In the immediate postwar years almost all migrants to South Australia were European born. Today, while European migrants still comprise about half our migrant population, there has been a substantial increase in the share of migrants from other parts of the world. South Australia is blessed to be home to people of more than 200 culturally, linguistically and religiously-diverse backgrounds, and many of these new and emerging communities may not be fully aware of how SAMEAC was first established, and many would like to understand what SAMEAC is about and what it can do to assist multicultural communities.

The legislative review consultation listened to what multicultural community members are telling us, and informs us that a modernised legislation for handling matters about multicultural affairs will reflect and accommodate our established migrant communities as well as the newer and emerging communities that reflect the 21st century. The language we use to describe multiculturalism diversity and linguistically diverse communities has shifted in the last 40 years. The very concept of cultural identity has evolved beyond simplistic links to one’s country of origin, race or primary language. Despite these changes, the SAMEAC Act has not undergone a major review in 30 years, hence our government conducting the review of the legislation and subsequently the introduction of this bill.

Early government initiatives under the SAMEAC Act aim to assist individual groups to integrate into our state and address barriers to their participation. Of course, this focus is still very important and I acknowledge the SAMEAC Act served our state well; however, now that we are in the 21st century it is time to produce updated legislation that reflects the needs of our more diverse multicultural state today, and sets the broad foundation for modern policy directions.

In light of this, in 2019 the Marshall Liberal government conducted a legislative review to shape this new legislation. The review of the act provided the opportunity to set a foundation for the development of new multicultural policy and provide the development of culturally responsive government services. The consultation phase of the review was extensive and featured six community forums, stakeholder workshops, written submissions were invited, online forums were held and also an online survey via YourSAy.

The review is being led by multicultural affairs within the Department of the Premier and Cabinet with support from the SAMEAC chair and members of the commission. On behalf of the state government I would like to thank SAMEAC members who have served from 2018 to 2021, for their wonderful contributions and service throughout their term. I would like to acknowledge these members: Mr Norman Schueler OAM, the chair, and Mrs Antonietta Cocchiaro OAM, deputy chair, both of whom are in the chamber today.

The other members also in the chamber today who served on the former commission are Ms Adriana Christopoulos, Cavaliere Maria Maglieri, Mrs Laura Adzandu, Mr Muhuma Yotham, Dr Sridhar Nannapaneni, Ms Thuy Phan, Dr Valdis Tomanis, Mr Ahmed Zreika, Mr George Ching, and Dr Ning Zhang. The SAMEAC legislative review consultation consisted of six onsite forums, which I mentioned, and involved stakeholders from multicultural communities not just in Adelaide but also regional South Australia, including the Riverland, Mount Gambier, Murray Bridge and Port Pirie.

I wish to express my sincere thanks to the former SAMEAC chair, deputy chair and members, community leaders, key multicultural agencies and everyone who participated in the SAMEAC review and forums. I would like to acknowledge the independent facilitator who was appointed to conduct the community forums, and thank Barbara Chappell for her hard work and contribution to the SAMEAC review, working closely with SAMEAC and the office of multicultural affairs at the DPC.

It has been my honour to work with so many dedicated community leaders, SAMEAC members and senior officers of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. In particular I would like to acknowledge Steven Woolhouse, Executive Director, Communities and Corporates; Justine Kennedy, Director, Multicultural Affairs; and Marisa La Falce, Senior Policy Adviser, for their extensive research across different jurisdictions, working tirelessly to organise forums, collecting feedback from online surveys, working with parliamentary counsel and the Attorney-General’s office in drafting the bill, and working with many of my team members to organise briefings for opposition and crossbench MPs.

I would like to highlight some of the key themes from the legislative review consultation that drove the creation of this bill. From the consultation there was strong support for updating the language in the legislation to reflect changes in how South Australians view multiculturalism. Feedback received informed us that there is majority support for the removal of the word ‘ethnic’ from the name of both the commission and the legislation more broadly. More of the participants considered the term ‘ethnic’ to be outdated and divisive. The use of clear, concise, active or strength-based language in the principles and legislation was strongly endorsed in the recommendation.

There was also strong endorsement of the proposal for reconsideration of the language in the legislation and whether the term ‘multiculturalism’ is still relevant, based on the significant changes in our society. The terms ‘interculturalism’, ‘interculturality’ and ‘intersectionality’ resonated with many of the foreign participants and respondents as being more active, contemporary and inclusive rather than just multiculturalism in the way people intersect or interconnect in our culturally diverse communities.

Many members of the community have asked: what is the difference between multicultural, intercultural and cross-cultural concepts? As a member of parliament with a multicultural background who has been passionately involved in studying cultural elements of our society, I am often asked this question.

Defining culture is not always straightforward, as we know. When we talk about a person’s cultural background it can be quite complex. Culture in this context means a set of learned values, internalised practices, and shared beliefs among people perhaps from the same region or same cultural background. We often think it is simultaneously something internal and external, locked inside us, shaping us and at times overshadowing us but also guiding us. Culture is hard to define and can be something that changes over time as we grow up, as we learn from different experiences.

When we talk about multiculturalism we all recognise that South Australia is a proud multicultural state because we have people from different backgrounds coexisting and living harmoniously. Bear in mind, though, coexistence and acceptance alone is being located together in one place but without really interacting deeply. Living in a multicultural country implies that there is a presence of multiple cultures, but there may not necessarily be much crossover or integration between different groups, which may remain largely separate from each other, with a dominant culture over these multicultural communities.

As members of parliament we are certainly more privileged than most in terms of getting to know many communities from different cultures, but this is not necessarily the case for a large section of the Australian community. Some multicultural groups will know their own community really well but not necessarily be exposed to many other different cultures on a regular basis.

I want to touch on the word ‘cross-cultural’. It is often confused with ‘intercultural’. The key definition of cross-cultural is a comparison between two or more cultures. For example, how two groups handle a situation like a board meeting or managing an event differently is cross-cultural. It is encouraging to know that many organisations and government agencies have undertaken many cross-cultural training programs. This kind of perspective is most useful for people who are planning to understand a specific community group to help develop culturally appropriate resources to avoid culture shock or misunderstanding.

Let me now turn to interculturalism. For the first time in Australia, this bill will incorporate the concept of interculturalism within a piece of legislation. While interculturalism is not a new concept, it is important that we get a deeper appreciation of it. Like multiculturalism, interculturalism also acknowledges the coexistence of multiple cultures, but instead of holding them in separate places, interculturalism speaks about being in or within a single space, not in separate spaces. That is really the key difference.

In addition, interculturalism goes one step further by focusing on the productive encounters that are constantly taking place between cultures. If individuals can embrace multiple cultures simultaneously, then any interaction between two people can potentially be an intercultural experience. People may or may not share a common language or be from the same country of origin or the same religion or cultural background, but an intercultural moment or exchange is perhaps most apparent when everyone comes together and embraces each other naturally without feeling awkward or uncomfortable.

Interculturalism seeks to call on someone living in a multicultural society to be more self-aware and aware of other cultures, thinking of yourself as an active participant in multiple cultures. Interculturalism aims to increase the opportunities for shared experience with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and for them to make contributions and enrich our state in every aspect—economically, socially and culturally—of our multicultural society.

The South Australian Multicultural Bill 2020 was introduced to parliament not only for the government of the day to make an ongoing commitment to build stronger and vibrant multicultural communities but to call on the whole of parliament to set a foundation for new multicultural policy directions. The key features, some of which I have already spoken about, update the language and also update the commission’s name to the South Australian Multicultural Commission.

It also introduces the concept of interculturalism, which I have covered, and retains the commission as an independent statutory body for up to 15 members. Two new functions for the commission were introduced in this bill: raising awareness and promoting understanding of interculturalism, and promoting the South Australian Multicultural Charter.

As you know, the SAMEAC Act has not had any review in 30 years, and it has been established for 40 years. We need something in between. We need something in between to engage multicultural communities of our state so that we can constantly look at practices and government responses to services to multicultural communities.

The charter is the centrepiece of this particular piece of legislation. The charter will be a set of clear, fundamental principles defining what multiculturalism and interculturalism mean to all South Australians not just for the multicultural community of South Australia. They will be expressed in inclusive and positive language, be aspirational in nature and lay the foundation for development of future government-funded policies and services in this area.

If the bill passes both houses, a major task for the government will be to provide the vehicle for commission members with the task to develop the South Australian Multicultural Charter. The themes and other feedback of the consultation processes are captured in the final consultation report. If you have not read that report, I would encourage all members to do so.

I have been incredibly honoured to be appointed and allocated the portfolio of responsibility to serve our wonderfully diverse multicultural community since I was elected in 2010. With the support and blessings of former leader Isobel Redmond and the current leader, Premier Marshall, and my Liberal colleagues, together with the solid support of our multicultural communities, it has been a privilege to be the current longest serving member of parliament in this portfolio. It is a true honour to work with hundreds of organisations, serving thousands of migrants and refugees of our multicultural communities for 11 consecutive years in parliament.

From 2010 to 2018, we have seen the Labor Party change their multicultural affairs ministers four times. There was the Hon. Michael Atkinson, followed by Grace Portolesi, Jennifer Rankine and then the Hon. Zoe Bettison, member for Ramsay. Three of those members have since retired. I thank them for their service. I wish them well in their retirement.

Since the Liberal Party formed government in 2018, our government has remained committed to serving our multicultural community. The Premier of South Australia, the Hon. Steven Marshall, took on the portfolio as the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and entrusted me to continue to assist him in multicultural affairs.

The Labor opposition, on the other hand, changed their shadow minister appointment three times in the last three years, from the member for Reynell, Ms Katrine Hildyard, to the member for Badcoe, Ms Jayne Stinson, and then back to the member for Ramsay again. But I commend them because people think multicultural affairs is just full of lots of celebratory events, but there are many challenges. You have to be fully committed to serve in this portfolio.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the work of the Marshall Liberal government and the service that we deliver to multicultural affairs.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. J.S. LEE: Since we came into government in 2018, we have restructured grant lines significantly and introduced four different grant lines. We recognise that many multicultural community groups are run by volunteers and they require a degree of help in terms of governance, so we introduced a grants program called Advance Together to help multicultural organisations ensure that they understand financial management, governance, how to conduct AGMs and how to have a proper constitution. We allow multicultural organisations to apply for Advance Together grants to get capacity building within their own organisation.

We have introduced Celebrate Together, which is about helping multicultural organisations run successful events with funding support. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned their success. I also want to say that, while the three years of funding by the former government was useful, the amount of grants funding would not have been matched by the up to $30,000 maximum grant for major festivals for multicultural organisations under the Marshall Liberal government.

There is another grant called the Expand Together grant, which helps organisations buy equipment for the purpose of delivering services. The Expand Together grant also allows organisations to refurbish their community centres, halls and infrastructure. The Stronger Together grants are grants that allow service delivery for organisations to embark on projects that are significantly able to address vulnerabilities and any service gaps in multicultural communities. They have all been found to be really useful.

During the COVID period, the Marshall Liberal government introduced a new grant called Connect Together to help multicultural organisations rebuild confidence in their communities, to obtain marketing support and support to build their websites, and support for them to have confidence and recover practices in terms of getting translated materials, etc., to help them address COVID.

The government is pleased to introduce the South Australian Multicultural Bill. It reflects the consultation that has been received through our review. The consultation called for us to expand our thinking on multiculturalism, as I explained before, and to help to foster policies and practices that provide inclusive interaction between different sections of our community.

I know that members have been talking about introducing amendments, and I know that the amendments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have only just reached us—they have been tabled today—and those amendments will be taken and duly considered by the Hon. Rob Lucas in preparation for the committee stage of the debate, but I just want to touch on something.

Directly in response to feedback during the review there is to be a clause, 7(2), which provides for the minister to call for expressions of interest before appointing a member to the Multicultural Commission. I want to touch on that to say that I am pleased that the government implemented a public call for expressions of interest for recruitment of the new commission members, who had commenced their terms on 1 July 2021.

Members may or may not be aware that prior to 2021 this year all SAMEAC members, whether from the former government or the previous governments, have always been appointed directly by the minister—by the former Labor minister and previous to that. Labor had been in government for 16 years. In those 16 years there had never been a call for expressions of interest. It is the first time. If we want to talk about transparency, this is the first time a government in South Australia has introduced expressions of interest.

The Hon. R.P. Wortley: It was a rort, a total rort.


The Hon. J.S. LEE: You can say what you like, but in terms of transparency, we have been the first.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Ms Lee will continue.

The Hon. J.S. LEE: I would just like to acknowledge the current SAMEAC members who have joined the commission. I would like to acknowledge the new chair, Ms Adriana Christopoulos, who is with us today. As the new chair of SAMEAC, Adriana brings with her extensive experience in working with diverse communities. This includes her previous term on the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission from July 2018, together with her leadership skills and board experience on the Australia Day Council. Adriana served on the Australia Day Council from 2008 to 2015 and chaired the council from 2013 to 2015.

Adriana is a proud and active member of the South Australian Greek community. She understands community needs, issues and challenges faced by culturally and linguistically diverse communities. In her professional life Adriana has undertaken management roles within the state and local governments, predominantly in the areas of policy development, advice, governance and economic development. These valuable qualities will assist the board in its work. Her ability to work with all levels of government and business demonstrates the coordinated approach she will use to ensure the advancement of multiculturalism and interculturalism within the South Australian community.

Adriana is joined by other SAMEAC members. We have 15 members in total, including the current chair. We have Ms Anna Cheung, who arrived in Australia in 1999 and was born in Beijing and grew up in Hong Kong. She enjoys promoting cross-cultural understanding between Chinese diasporas of different regions. She is the president of the Tong De Association and ambassador of the OzAsia Festival.

Mr George Chin has been a part of the South Australian multicultural community since 1992. He has been a business owner and operator in the Chinatown precinct for more than 25 years. He also displays strong leadership as the former president of Chinatown Adelaide of South Australia and also sat on the StudyAdelaide board between 2010 and 2017.

Bruce Djite has had a long career in professional sports, and was recently appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Committee for Adelaide. He was the former director of football at the Adelaide United Football Club. Bruce is also a native French speaker and a former professional footballer whose career spans over five countries across three continents. It is great to have somebody of his calibre join SAMEAC.

Ms Carmen Garcia is a social entrepreneur with extensive government and community board experience. She is a proud Filipino South Australian and a long-term advocate for refugees and social entrepreneurship in South Australia and nationally. She is the joint winner of the 2019 Governor’s Multicultural Award for Individual Outstanding Achievement and her company has won the National Social Enterprise of the Year at the Australian Small Business Champions Awards in this year, 2021. She was also recognised in the InDaily 40 Under 40 Business Leaders Awards, so definitely a very active young leader in our community.

Ms Manju Khadka has lived in Adelaide since 2014. A relatively new migrant, she calls herself. She works very closely with the Nepalese migrant community. She is currently the State Women’s Coordinator of the Non-Resident Nepalese Association of South Australia. She is a founding principal of the Nepalese Ethnic School and continues to serve as a volunteer teacher. She also undertakes volunteer work with the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, advocating for culturally diverse members. She is a quiet achiever in many senses. In 2020, she was a recipient of an International Women’s Day Community Quiet Achiever Award through the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia.

Cavaliere Maria Maglieri, who many people in this chamber will know, was born into a passionate Italian family with extended community communications throughout South Australia. Maria brings enthusiasm and vitality to SAMEAC. She likes to get things done. She does not really like to put herself up for president or on that level, but she always works behind the scenes and ensures that all the communities are supported through her own company as well as through her role with the Molise Association Adelaide South Australia. Maria was named in the 2012 Molisana Business Woman of the World in Italy and she was awarded the title ‘Cavaliere’ Order of Merit of the Repubblica Italiana, in 2018. The next SAMEAC member, Rajendra Pandey, was named Citizen of the Year by the City of Unley on Australia Day and was acknowledged for his extensive contribution to the community. He was also humbled to be nominated by St John Ambulance and the World Hindu Council of Australia, where he served as the president.

He holds the position of Lieutenant in the Army Reserves with the Royal Australian Ordnance Corps, 9th Brigade, South Australia. Raj is very proud to be a State President of the World Hindu Council of SA and he has served in that role since 2015. He is also a member of the Community Advisory Council for the Public Health Network and a member of the board of directors of the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia. Shaza Ravaji has been the President of the Persian Cultural Association of South Australia since 2019 and also a committee member of the Middle Eastern Communities Council of South Australia. Her background means that she is very helpful in interacting with many Middle Eastern communities, and she hosts a regular program for the Persian radio program 5EBI.

Hussain Razaiat many of you know very well. Hussain’s story is one of resilience and hard work. Hussain arrived by boat as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, spending time in immigration detention before securing a temporary protection visa. We know that there is a lot of sadness and crisis and humanitarian tragedy happening right now in Afghanistan. Hussain Razaiat sits on a national panel for Afghanistan, helping our foreign affairs minister and the Minister for Immigration to resolve some of the issues about visas, etc., for Afghan communities in crisis, so I want to really thank Hussain for continuously being a role model and, particularly now, playing a very important role on SAMEAC. Reinhard Struve, many of you will know, has been the group leader of a German cultural group, Bund der Bayern, since 2011. He is very active in fostering relationships with many other culturally and linguistically diverse groups, including African communities, Indian communities and European groups.

The Hon. J.E. Hanson: What about Ms Tran?

The Hon. J.S. LEE: Ms Tran is someone you know well; is that right?

The Hon. J.E. Hanson: I am reading off the website.

The Hon. J.S. LEE: Ms Khuyen Tran arrived in South Australia at the age of three with her family as a refugee fleeing the Vietnam War. For more than 20 years, she has volunteered as a maths and language teacher at two Vietnamese community schools in South Australia. In 2018, she was the recipient of the Ethnic Schools Primary Teacher of the Year Award, presented by the Minister for Education. She has 25 years of combined industry experience in financial services and academia, and she is currently undertaking postgraduate studies in education. For over 10 years, she has been a full-time lecturer at the University of South Australia and UniSA Online. Khuyen—

The Hon. J.E. Hanson: ‘She is passionate about applying her skills, knowledge and experience to support diverse communities.’

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Hanson!

The Hon. J.E. Hanson: Sorry, I am just reading it off the website.

The Hon. J.S. LEE: Khuyen is not only active in the Vietnamese community, she brings freshness and kindness to many things. Last weekend, she worked with the Vietnamese Buddhist temple and organised a fundraiser. That fundraiser helped to raise money so that they can send PPE and masks back to Vietnam to vulnerable communities that do not have COVID protection. This is the type of high calibre, quality people we are attracting on SAMEAC. As I said before, this expression of interest is core for all community members who have shown a great interest. They do not just show a great interest in multicultural matters but they demonstrate there is a track record of them doing significantly well and continuing to embark on humanitarian policy development for serving our refugees as well as multicultural communities. The next SAMEAC member I want to touch—

The PRESIDENT: Just before the honourable member continues, I recognise that this information is valuable towards the community. However, this bill is about establishing a new commission and the members that you are highlighting are members of the commission under the existing act. A second reading is quite broad and I have been tolerant, but I just bring that to your attention. Continue.

The Hon. J.S. LEE: Thank you, Mr President. Because we are talking about SAMEAC and some of the members have raised issues about the composition of SAMEAC, whether we are bringing diversity, it is important—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. J.S. LEE: —that we talk about these SAMEAC members in real form. These members are representing our multicultural communities and ought to be acknowledged, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: I hope you are not challenging my remarks. The reality is that you can well describe the sorts of people who could well be elected to the commission under this bill if it becomes the act. I have been very happy to let you continue, but I think you need to recognise the fact that you are talking about members of the existing commission under the existing act, and we are here to discuss the bill which is proposed to be the new act with a new commission. So I ask you to continue.

The Hon. J.S. LEE: Thank you, Mr President. Because I have spoken about other SAMEAC members, I would like to continue, sir, with your permission, because I think it is important that I continue to highlight members without omitting anyone.

Eugenia Tsoulis OAM is one of the most outstanding and recognisable multicultural leaders and advocates in South Australia. As many of you know, because of her work with Hussain Razaiat, and with the Afghan communities in general, with all the leaders, they have come up with a proposal to instigate the Afghan Community Service Hub, and that is based in the Australian Migrant Resource Centre. Members in this council should probably refer to the MRC any constituents from Afghan communities who have been impacted. Eugenia was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1994 for Services to Multiculturalism in the Arts. In 2012, she won the Governor’s Multicultural Award for Individual Achiever of the Year. She has many, many accolades as well.

Mr Denis Yengi is the President and a board member of the African Communities Council of South Australia and the Board Treasurer of the Australian Migrant Resource Centre. He has also contributed extensively to the African Communities Council. He was born in South Sudan, and at the age of seven, Denis and his family fled the civil war in South Sudan and crossed the border to come to Australia, some 20 years ago. He is another very young, dynamic leader. Mr Ahmed Zreika is a respected leader of the Muslim community in South Australia. He has been involved with the Islamic Society of South Australia for over a decade, and he is a founder of the Al-Salam Festival as well as Al-Salam television. He continues to play a very significant role. I particularly want to touch on the Ramadan Carnival, and the involvement in the intercultural Port Power football program has been one of the key achievements of Ahmed.

I note that the Hon. Frank Pangallo has filed six amendments. I want to very briefly talk about it in the next five minutes, longer if time permits. The Hon. Frank Pangallo talks about introducing amendments to provide that members of SAMEAC must not be appointed unless they are an Australian citizen or permanent resident. Just to offer some remarks relating to that, this particular clause would probably align with our thinking anyway because the last expression of interest had those elements or criteria in it, in terms of there being no-one currently appointed to the commission who is not either an Australian citizen or a permanent resident.

But I do want to say that we have to be very careful sometimes in what we actually prescribe inside a particular piece of legislation, because there may be some very worthy non-citizens or non-Australians appointed to government boards. For example, there is Tay Joo Soon from Singapore who is actually appointed on the advisory board of SA Health. We have Horst Domdey from Germany. We have Nigel Brooksby from the United Kingdom. They are appointed on government boards.

There is Sir William Castell, from the United Kingdom, appointed on a government board. There is Professor Goran Roos, from Sweden, who is a former member of the Economic Development Board and the Invest in SA Advisory Board and a former chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Council. When you think about appointments, a former Labor government appointed people who are non-Australian citizens and non-permanent residents as well. I am just offering those remarks.

In terms of amendment No. 2 by the Hon. Frank Pangallo, it talks about rounding up to the nearest whole number to be women. Gender equality we already broadly cover in our clause about gender diversity. We are talking about many other skill sets to call on. Clause 7(3) of the bill talks about the fact that the commission should reflect appropriate diversity of cultural backgrounds, gender, lived experience, age and geographic location. We believe that this clause broadly covers everything, but the Hon. Frank Pangallo wanted to really prescribe and make the point that it must be more than 50 per cent women. To be honest, currently our commission—even when we first formed government, it was 50 per cent women—is more than 50 per cent women.

In terms of the residents in regional South Australia, he seeks to introduce their being less than 25 years of age at the time of their appointment. I need to caution members that, if things are so prescribed under a piece of legislation, should the criteria of recruitment not fulfil one or the other, it means that you have to call for additional expressions of interest, and you have to push for maybe a longer time for recruitment. I am just putting it out there. I understand the Hon. Frank Pangallo withdrew the Aboriginal person clause, which is probably a wise decision, because in consultation with the Aboriginal affairs and reconciliation commission they feel that this is a multicultural bill, not an Aboriginal affairs bill. Therefore, to prescribe having an Aboriginal person within a multicultural board may be offensive to the First Nations people. It is important for the multicultural commission to consult with the Aboriginal affairs commission, etc., but it is not ideal to put them within the composition of the board.

Mr Frank Pangallo had an amendment as well in terms of declaration of affiliations and register of interests. We sought different advice, and the declaration of interests by board and committee members is already covered by the Public Sector (Honesty and Accountability) Act 1995. It sits under another piece of legislation and the duties of the members are explained in the paper, ‘Honesty and accountability for members of government boards’, which is provided to board members. Given that we already have this framework, there is no need for a separate arrangement for commission members. In fact, by creating different disclosure requirements for members of multicultural boards, it could be perceived by the multicultural community as discriminatory, which is something for the honourable member to consider.

In terms of amendment No. 4, to increase the required meetings per year from four to six, currently the commission is already meeting 10 times a year, so to increase that minimum requirement from four to six meetings is reasonable. In terms of touching on the amendment regarding remuneration, allowance and expenses, the Attorney-General already covered that broadly in her debate at the committee stage, so I ask the honourable member to refer to those comments. I also point out to the honourable member that there is a Department of the Premier and Cabinet circular, remuneration for government appointed boards and committees, set out in a cabinet approved policy for remuneration of expenses. Because that governs consistently for all boards of government, to introduce something and prescribe it within a piece of legislation may be inconsistent practice, so I ask honourable members to reconsider that.

In terms of raising awareness of harm of racism and other forms of discriminatory behaviour and to consult with the office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, I think the Attorney-General rightly and articulately has already outlined the fact that there is a role for the Equal Opportunity Commission to undertake that work. I also want to inform you that whether the clause is in there or not, the commission itself is already conducting raising awareness. It is a part of the broader functions of the commission. In recent times, the office of the Race Discrimination Commissioner has had consultation with SAMEAC. I will now conclude my remarks.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. J.S. LEE: As a state with a proud and justified reputation in multicultural affairs and fostering a harmonious and inclusive state, it is vital that we continue to underpin policies, programs and activities for contemporary legislation, and the bill is an important reaffirmation of the importance of a shared commitment of multiculturalism and interculturalism to South Australia. I urge all members from all political persuasions to support the bill. I believe this legislation will strengthen not only our government’s commitment but the parliament’s commitment to continue to serve and deliver contemporary South Australian multicultural legislation going forward. I wholeheartedly commend the bill to members.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.