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Subject: Cultural Studies »


State Government Initiatives

Stepan Kerkyasharian.

Stepan Kerkyasharian, on the background of the Ethnic Affairs Commission.



Date Added:

17 July 2002


Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1995.


mov (Quicktime);

File size:



40 secs


Chair, Ethnic Affairs Commission of New South Wales

The Ethnic Affairs Commission (of NSW) was set up in 1978 as a Commission of Inquiry. It was asked to inquire into the needs and aspirations of migrants or ethnics, and to look at their level of participation in Australian society.

In Ď79, it brought down its report to the State Government, State of NSW, which was called The Participation Report, and the fundamental tenet of that report was that people have the right to participate in all aspects of activity of the State - social, political, artistic, cultural, whatever - regardless of their ethnic or cultural or racial background.


The Report also said that there should be a permanent Ethnic Affairs Commission established to promote unity in the ethnic communities, to advise the Government on ethnic affairs initiatives and to also provide services - and in this case the services were interpreting and translating.

The Commission provided, at one level, very valuable translating and interpreting services.

In terms of government policy, the Commission played a key role in getting the Government to adopt an Ethnic Affairs Policy Statement program (EAPS), in 1982-83. There were some very important initiatives that came out of that, mainly, that government agencies published a lot of their information in different languages. They started using interpreters. They employed bilingual workers where necessary, and generally became aware of the reality that there are a lot of Australians who cannot communicate in English, but they are part and parcel of society.

The third area where the Commission did a lot of good work was to inquire into community needs. It looked at certain communities, highlighted their needs, highlighted their aspirations and made recommendations as to how government could meet those.

The Ethnic Affairs Policy Statement did engender a lot of activity, and did result in some very good initiatives and very good work. But of necessity, its main focus was about service delivery and about welfare. But after about 10 years it needed a change, it needed development.

We recommended to the State Government the adoption of a Charter of Principles for a Culturally Diverse Society. That was adopted in February 1992.

It is progressive in the sense that itís talking about our cultural diversity being a resource, itís talking about it being inclusive. It certainly is enforcing the notion of equality for all, rather than exclusivity and it certainly puts into context the whole notion of multiculturalism, and saying that it is in the interests of Australia. Multiculturalism is not about dividing Australia but rather utilising it as a resource.

Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1995.