By our community reporter
Melbourne: The Labor Party has criticised the Baillieu government of stripping the independence of the Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC). Earlier, Multicultural Affairs Minister, Nick Kotsiras announced via media release on 3 February 2011, that the VMC would lose its policy and administrative functions, which would be transferred into the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
State Labor MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Opposition Leader, Colin Brooks said it was obvious the changes would weaken the VMC’s independence and reduce its ability to provide frank and fearless policy advice to Government.
“It is disappointing that at a time when State and Federal Leaders on both sides of politics are rightly defending and espousing the benefits of multiculturalism, the Baillieu Government has removed Victoria’s peak multicultural agency’s ability to do its job,” Colin Brooks said.
“The stripping of the policy and administrative functions from the VMC is reminiscent of way the Kennett Government operated – nobble any person or agency that may have a different view to the Government”.
“The Minister says that the changes to the VMC are in accordance with the Liberal Nationals Coalition policy taken to the election but they must have been written in invisible ink, because there is no mention of the stripping of these functions from the VMC. In fact, the policy says the Commission will “represent all Victorians and not the Government.”
In contrast to their policies, the Liberals have now cynically corralled the engine room of multicultural policy within the bureaucracy.
“To top off this savage gouging of the VMC, the Minister for Multicultural Affairs attempted to spin the Government’s actions as “strengthening the independence” of the VMC – a very clumsy attempt to confuse and then justify the weakening of the Commission’” Colin Brooks said.
In a media release on 3 February, the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Mr. Nicholas Kotsiras MP said, “Membership of the Commission, while remaining at 12 members, will include a youth representative and a representative from a peak community organisation. Eight Regional Advisory Councils will be established to work in partnership with the VMC and local communities, operating as important conduits for information on regional settlement and service delivery.”
“The Government will also establish a Ministerial Inter-departmental Multicultural Services Advisory Committee to co-ordinate a whole-of-government approach to multiculturalism and citizenship. Chaired by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, this committee will provide an important additional link between the OMAC, VMC and government departments, “the release said.
The VMC is an independent statutory authority that was originally established in 1983 under the name of the Victorian Ethnic Affairs Commission. The Commission now operates under the Multicultural Victoria Act 2004.
By Neeraj Nanda
Melbourne, 1 November: The main political parties in Victoria have set the ball rolling for boosting funding for the Diwali festival in Victoria. At the glittering AIII Diwali Festival today at the Sandown Racecourse, both the Victorian Premier Mr. John Brumby and State Opposition leader Mr. Ted Baillieu announced major funding for the celebration of the biggest Hindu festival Diwali in Victoria.
Addressing the gathering Mr. Brumby announced that the grant for the AIII Diwali festival 2011, next year will be doubled. In his speech the Victorian Premier praised India and the Indian community here as an great example of a multicultural community.
A day before at the Federation Square Diwali organised by the Celebrate India, the Premier announced $ 1 million in funding through the Victorian Government’s $12 million Cultural Precincts and Community Infrastructure Fund to the Hindu Society of Victoria for construction of a Hindu Cultural and Education Centre in Carrum Downs.
The announcement is in addition to a $100,000 funding boost for the Hindu community to build a community hall announced by the Minister Assisting the Premier on Multicultural Affairs, James Merlino at the Melbourne Vinayagar Hindu Sangam Temple in The Basin.
The proposed Centre will be adjacent to the Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple, and will include a heritage resource and learning centre, a function centre for educational and cultural activities, and catering facilities to be used as a training kitchen.
Speaking at the Diwali celebrations at Sandown Racecourse, Mr Baillieu said a Coalition Government will provide an additional $100,000 towards the operating costs of the 2011 Diwali celebrations at Federation Square and Sandown Racecourse.
“I have been at both of these great celebrations every year over the last four years and I am pleased to announce that Federation Square and Sandown Diwali festivals will each receive $50,000 in support under a Coalition Government,” Mr Baillieu said.
“Diwali is celebrated all round the world but no more enthusiastically than here in Melbourne, with a great upbeat mood, a happy atmosphere and plenty of colour, music and food making for a great day for thousands of people from across Victoria.