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Issues Faced by Tasmania’s Multicultural Community Discussed

The issues faced by Tasmania’s multicultural community were discussed last month when representatives of Tasmania’s diverse communities and several organisations attended a roundtable forum. These included The Multicultural Council of Tasmania (MCOT), The Australian Red Cross, The Youth Network of Tasmanian, and Community Languages Australia.

Madeleine Ogilvie, a Labor MP for Denison, opened the forum by asking those attending how they wanted to see government address the issues facing the multicultural community in Tasmania. She said the forum was an attempt to have a “bigger conversation at a community level to gather informed policy from what the community wants.”

Though the event was held in Parliament House by the Tasmanian Labor Party, it was organised at the request of the MCOT, the state representative for various multicultural groups and organisations in Tasmania.

Many of the attending communities presented problems to the panel. Representatives of the Tasmanian Greek community’s language school raised concerns about flying teachers in from the mainland to compensate for the lack of trained Greek teachers in the state. More recently, established communities like the Sudanese and Bhutanese communities in Northern Tasmania, do not have the resources or the funds to have a permanent space for their community centres. The Bhutanese speaker also brought to attention the issue of poor mental health in newly arrived communities, especially in the elderly. He said many of the immigrants in his community often feel isolated due to the perceived differences between them and the culture they have found themselves living in.

In response to the issues raised by the forum, MCOT has created a list of questions for each of the major political parties in Tasmania about party policy concerning multiculturalism. They presented them to Labor, the Greens, and the Liberal Party, giving each until the 21st of February to formulate a response.

Two of the questions drafted by MCOT (and later published under MCOT’s 2018 Policy Survey) directly impact and are of great importance to Tasmanian students: “Will your government make student concession fares available for all international students that study in colleges that have Department of Education accreditation?” and “How will your government help to tackle the current crisis in the private rental market?”.

Tasmanian students attending recognised tertiary education organisations receive discounts on public transport. These include students attending UTas, TAFE and the Tasmanian College of English. Smaller training schools often remain unrecognised by primary public transport providers in Tasmania, and do not receive student discounts. Because these schools have large international populations looking for employable qualifications in Tasmania, the MCOT list highlights the discrepancy in public transport discounts between the two.

The current state of the private rental market is still an ongoing issue that Tasmanian students must face. Applying for a property with as many as 20 other applicants is common. Additionally, the application process can take long periods of time before being even considered for tenancy. Any resolution to the problem would no doubt be welcomed by renters all over the state, student or otherwise.

Madeleine Ogilvie closed the forum by endorsing MCOT’s 2018 Policy Survey and announcing that, regardless of the result of the state election, she would continue to push for discussion between the attendees of the forum and the Labor Party to open dialogue into issues facing Tasmania’s multicultural community into the future.

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