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Subject: Cultural Studies »


State Government Initiatives

Helen Cattalini.

Helen Catalini discusses her view about the Ethnic Affairs Commission.



Date Added:

26 June 2002


Making Multicultural Australia


mov (Quicktime);

File size:



1min 3sec


Former Chair, Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission of Western Australia (now replaced by The Office of Multicultural Interests)

My vision about the (Ethnic Affairs) Commission was very similar to what I had for the Ethnic Communities' Council, I guess, in trying to, if I could use the word ‘empower’ the ethnic communities. But by that, what I meant was that I felt that it was only by really making the ethnic community organised and stronger and interested in more than the cultural festivals and so on, not that... I mean all those things are really important for clubs and associations to do, I'm not saying they're not.

But I sort of had this vision that we also had to move along in the political sense as well, and that by making the ethnic communities stronger, that the things like the Ethnic Affairs Commission and everything else that the government was trying to do would not matter as much. I suppose I felt, like, doing community development stuff from a government level is very difficult because you're depending on the same government that you're trying to stir up for your funding, I guess.


I would say that within government there were people who had very much a willingness and were very sincere about multiculturalism and about the Ethnic Affairs Commission. I think however, that didn’t extend to all of them by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe didn’t stretch to enough of the Cabinet Ministers who were the most powerful. But even those would see the value of those issues around multiculturalism, and we talked about multiculturalism and social justice in the same sort of terms here in those early days. And a lot of people understood those terms because the Labor Government was also talking about social justice issues in a whole range of programs. I dare say... there was a will to set up the Commission. There was a willingness to do that. There was a willingness to allocate a certain amount of money, but there wasn’t a willingness to go much further than that.

Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1993.