Tag: Victoria Parliament

Victorian Parliamentary library turns 170, survives the internet age

Photo- Victoria Parliament website

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 24 November 2021: The library at the Victorian Parliament is now 170 years old. If you enter the Parliament Hall after security and getting your entry pass, you can walk straight crossing a door and reach the library. It’s not open for general public.

Known as the ‘gentleman’s library’ in its early years, the library which keeps the Parliament and its members informed, has served 59 Parliaments and more than 1800 members , says an article in the Parliament website.

The library kicked off 170 years back at Bourke Street when the Legislative Council chamber was there. It was located on the lower floor in St Patrick’s Hall. Since it came to its present location (1861), the library is more a supportive library.

Its major purpose is to support the Members of Parliament, but it’s also to support the members’ electorate offices, because they do research on behalf of their constituents.

On sitting days we will have members come in and say “I’m speaking on this bill in two hours’ time, I need some background information on this topic”, so we’ll put that background information together.

“We also prepare research papers for topical matters that we think may end up as part of some piece of legislation in the future,says chief librarian, Carolyn Macvean (Manager, Parliamentary Library and Information Service). (Our Living Library, Parliament website)

So in the age of the internet, what’s the relevance of libraries?, says Carolyn Macvean, “Well librarians know the difference between the chaff and the hay.

The internet is good, it serves its purpose. But there’s a lot of rubbish out there as well, and unless you know what you’re looking for and you understand the nuances then you could be led up the garden path. But with librarians, we know how to find stuff. I mean, that’s it in a nutshell, if you’re looking for something halfway across the world it might not ever have been published online but a librarian will know how to track it down, so it’s our knowledge of other networks, not just the electronic network.

Photo- Victoria Parliament Website

The material that we produce, we know it can be verified. It’s peer reviewed and it’s good quality information and it has to be, because it’s being spoken to in Parliament and what gets reported in Parliament is reported in the papers. So it comes back to us to make sure that we put together the most precise information that we understand at the time.

So that’s where our role, our skill set comes in.”

Technologically, the library is being constantly upgraded. “..started down the machine learning and the AI [Artificial Intelligence] path and obviously digital assets are huge, and we’ve started with that.

One example is the library’s semantic AI-enabled ontology classification. That’s software used for classifying our externally generated online media content.

These articles are automatically extracted and classified into our database, and that gives us a far more accurate result. Over the last two years, for example, the system automatically indexed on average 164,000 news articles and 8,000 TV and radio clips, ” says the chief librarian.

So, there is no looking back for the Victorian Parliament Library and it’s marching into the future with a bang.

MUSINGS: #protest4partners & ‘civilization’


By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 10 May 2021: Recently, I went to cover a rally at Victoria’s Parliament steps, by people who are separated from their partner, fiancé, or spouse because Australia has delayed their visas. The many men and women (mostly young) demonstrating under the banner of #protest4partners are separated from their loved ones. One placard said, “14 months apart” and another said, “Fiancés are immediate family” and another said, “582 days apart”.

I was making videos and taking still photographs when I noticed a quite Indian-looking young man. I went to him and asked him why he was at the rally and where he came from. He turned out to be a Gujarati working in Melbourne and separated from his wife for 20+ months. Reluctantly, he said his wife (in Gujarat) was not getting a visa and if she does not get it soon he might quit Australia. He said he had written to concerned authorities but things do not move here.

Meanwhile, my sympathetic mind asked him – Why do so many people leave Gujarat for overseas pastures? “This is a trend there and is on”, he replied. Plus, “one Australian dollar makes 57 Rupees”, he said. We were at the sidelines of the rally and the young man seemed to be getting emotional. So, I told him, I will try to do a story about your case and hope something might happen.

“For how long Indians will do cleaning jobs in Australia. We did not come here for this. We are being used, “he said. The boy seemed to be speaking from his heart. An element of frustration and helplessness was visible.

“You see the Westerners doing this to us despite we having an ancient civilization. In fact, after the initial migrations from Africa, we spread civilization across the world and now they are dominating. The Aryan invasion theory is wrong. There is archaeological evidence we are the most advanced indigenous civilization”, he said.

Confronted by his ‘civilization’ stuff, I said, “But this is the 21st century and we have to move accordingly and adjust.” Na Na, “I will leave if my wife does not get a spouse visa soon.”

Something then stuck to my mind and I asked him, “Do you have Permanent Residency” (PR) to stay in Australia. Reply, “Wahi to nahi hi, apply kar rakha hi aur main wait kar raha hoon” (I have applied for PR and waiting for it).

I asked, “So, how can your wife get a spouse visa if you don’t have PR yourself.” The fellow baffled, could not answer. Anyway, I handed over my business card to him and asked him to give me a call do discuss the matter. I wondered I was sure, most cases are human tragedies with different connotations. Was the ‘civilization’ argument the last refuge of an emotionally down human?

Meanwhile, two MP’s (Greens and Labor) addressed the gathering and promised to fight for the cause. My Tweet about the rally seems to be doing well.

Vic. Parliament panel bats to better connect diverse families with childhood services

Photo: Parliament of Victoria, Legal and Social Issues Standing Committee – Legislative Assembly

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 20 September 2020: Early childhood (0 to 8 years old) is a crucial age when a child needs engagement and that’s possible when access to and connections with early childhood services in the state become vital.

A comprehensive report by a panel of the Victorian Parliament into early childhood engagement by culturally diverse families has made 49 recommendations aimed at improving access to and connections with early childhood services in Victoria.

Presented to the Parliament by the Legislative Assembly Legal and Social Issues Committee, the report addresses current barriers that culturally diverse families face in accessing services that would help them to feel more connected to the Victorian communities in which they live. It also highlights the importance of early learning opportunities in laying the foundations for children’s long-term development and indicates that this is particularly relevant for children from refugee backgrounds.

“Families continue to experience barriers to accessing early childhood services, such as language and communication barriers, costs, limited awareness of services and their benefits, discrimination and fear of judgement, among others,” said Committee Chair Natalie Suleyman.

“The purpose of this report and its accompanying recommendations is to address these barriers and ensure that services are inclusive in supporting families and their children,” Ms Suleyman said.

Key recommendations include:

*continued funding of community hubs as well-established and evidence-based models for engaging with culturally diverse communities
*mandated training in cultural competency and trauma-informed care for state funded services
strategies and actions to increase the number of bicultural and bilingual workers in early *childhood services
*enhanced support for refugee families by the Maternal and Child Health Service
identifying children of refugee background as a priority group for mental health services
*culturally diverse speech therapy workers to ensure speech and language delay assessments can be conducted in a child’s first language
*funding for playgroups that specifically target culturally diverse communities
targeted funding to assist people from culturally diverse backgrounds to engage in training and development, such as Free TAFE in the early childhood sector
*expanding Early Start Kindergarten to ensure children of refugee background are immediately eligible for free 3-year-old kinder
*adopting a state-wide approach to kindergarten enrolment, with a single, easily accessible and central enrolment process across Victoria.

“Multiculturalism has benefited our state greatly and we need to ensure that the families we welcome to Victoria can access and benefit from early education and health services to enable their children to get the best start in life,” Ms. Suleyman said.

“Families feeling like they belong in the community and in specific environments, such as kindergartens or schools, is critical to successful engagement.”

The Committee received a range of submissions and held a series of public hearings and site visits that allowed it to explore a number of important issues. This included, in particular, the importance of expanding workforce diversity, not only to provide more welcoming spaces for culturally diverse families, but also to create meaningful employment opportunities for individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds.

The report is available from the Committee’s website.

Victoria Parliament catering team’s meals milestone through charities


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 18 August 2020: The kitchens have reached a significant milestone during COVID-19, preparing 450,000 meals that charities have delivered to people most in need.

“Parliament’s catering team has been working seven days a week with a range of charities over several months to help ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community have received nutritious meals,” Legislative Assembly Speaker Colin Brooks said.

“Through this initiative we’ve supported the well-being of our community and we’ve kept people in jobs,” Mr Brooks said..

The meals initiative commenced in late March and is a partnership with The Salvation Army, The Lazarus Centre, St Peter’s Eastern Hill Anglican Church, Heaven At The Hill social enterprise, the Father Bob Maguire Foundation, Melbourne City Mission, St Vincent de Paul Society and St Mary’s House of Welcome.

“By the end of August more than half a million meals will have been prepared and distributed through this joint effort for our community,” Mr. Brooks said.

Parliament’s appropriation is being used to support the program with $476,563 spent in June and $344,303 spent in July. Funds have been directed to this initiative as some of the Parliament’s planned activities could not be undertaken due to COVID-19.

“The charities we have been working with have told us how much this meals initiative is assisting them to help people in need at a time of unprecedented demand for their services,” Legislative Council President Nazih Elasmar said.

“This is a wonderful example of Victorians working together for the benefit of our community,” Mr. Elasmar said.

Source: Parliament website, 11 August 2020.

Vic. Legislative Council homelessness online hearings continue


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE,12 August 2020: The Victoria Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee today continued its inquiry into homelessness in Victoria holding an online hearing with mental health and legal specialists.

The online hearing was broadcast live on the Victorian Parliament’s website in the morning. Two panel discussions took place.

The first in the morning will be with mental health service provider Mind
Australia and the Victorian Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.

Questions were asked to the panelists by Fiona Patten, Chair, Tien Kieu, Deputy Chair, Kaushaliya Vaghela MP Legislative Council, Western Metropolitan Region, Tania Maxwell, member and Wendy Lovell, Member among others.

On a question by Kaushaliya Vaghela, it came out that social housing should be the priority no. one, mental health, Drug/Alcohol Use, and housing should be coordinated.

Kaushaliya Vaghela MP at the hearing.

Dr. Brian Vandenberg, Health Economist from the School of Social Sciences at Monash University, answering to a question said, research on gambling and homelessness shows, the connection of poverty, and loneliness behind it. So, it is a complex challenge which, he thought, needs to be addressed.

The second in the afternoon was with Magistrate Pauline Spencer, Head of the Specialist Courts Division at the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, and representatives from the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO).

Also presenting at the online hearing was be Dr. Brian Vandenberg, Health Economist from the School of Social Sciences at Monash University, as well as Anglicare Victoria and the Office of the Public Advocate.

Last week the Committee presented an interim report to Parliament on the inquiry and published an interactive dashboard that shows who has engaged with the inquiry and what issues are most important to them.
This and upcoming hearings are likely to enable the Committee to explore in-depth some of the factors behind homelessness and what can be done to solve the problems that are arising.