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Speech: SA Multiculturalism Bill 2020

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: 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.

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