Racism - it stops with us

Amber Flohm
Multicultural Officer

Federation’s new anti-racism policy addresses funding changes imposed by Local Schools, Local Decisions and the new social and political context in which public sector educators do their jobs.

Severe cuts to multicultural education programs and resources mean many of the measures that underpin NSW anti-racism legislation and policies have been compromised.

Federation understands the need for strong, transparent accountability measures to ensure the Department of Education and Communities complies with legislation and its own policies, and to minimise the effects of cuts on the ability of linguistically and culturally diverse communities to participate in quality public education programs.

The 2013 anti-racism policy, adopted by Council on November 23, contains 13 action points which include responsibilities for planning, conducting and reporting on strategies that address cultural diversity and hold the Department to account, including the professional development of Anti-Racism Contact Officers (ARCOS) in every public school. The full policy is available at http://www.nswtf.org.au/files/anti-racism_policy.pdf.

It seeks to ensure that anti-racism education remains an important part of ongoing learning for every student, teacher and community member rather than something delivered to a minority.

The policy stems from the work of the Anti-Racism Policy Committee which currently includes three Aboriginal teachers, four Language Background Other Than English (LBOTE) teachers and two teachers working with refugee students in Intensive English Centres.

Racism is on the rise in Australia and eradicating it from public schools and TAFE colleges is one of the responsibilities of teachers. Multiculturalism should never be a contestable concept and public schools, which cater for students from all backgrounds, are the cornerstone for a positive, multicultural and socially-cohesive society.

Cultural diversity takes a bullet

NSW education has one departmental officer left to communicate with diverse cultural groups across its 800,000 square kilometres. The officer’s duties include organising translation and interpreting services for speakers of more than 240 different languages.

It is just one result of dramatic cuts to programs underpinning multiculturalism and anti-racism ordered by the State Government.

Support programs assisting 6500 refugee students across the state are the responsibility of another lone officer while four DEC employees have been handed the task of managing ESL programs that cater for 134,000 students, including 7000 who have been in the country for less than six months.

A further three officers support all other areas of multicultural education, including anti-racism and community harmony for every public school. Their responsibilities cover 2200 schools that educate roughly 230,000 students from language backgrounds other than English.

The Department’s officer with responsibility for anti-racism education has been cut and responsibilities distributed among those still standing.

It is a measure of the priority being accorded to this area that the Department only has a skeleton staff left in equity and that regional ESL and multicultural consultants, community information and refugee support officers have been eliminated.

The Resource Allocation Model (RAM), effective across NSW from next year, does not include funding to replace their work in engaging culturally diverse families, helping teachers and schools understand the impact culture has on learning, and developing inclusive programs and strategies.