Function VF 231
Ethnic affairs
About this Function Related Agencies Related Groups
 
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  • Use this Function for
    1975 to 1977

    Provision of migrant advisory services
    Provision of interpreting services
    Publication of 'Migrants' Melbourne' resource directory

    1977 to 1991

    Provision of financial assistance for projects which furthered the concept of a cohesive but culturally diverse community (included funding of festivals, furnishing community centres, establishment of resource centres)
    Seminars and talks relevant to ethnic communities
    Community education programs to improve understanding and interaction among ethnic groups
    Investigation of the needs of ethnic communities and research into ways to meet these needs on the best cost/benefit basis (this was the function of the Migrant Advisory Bureau which was transferred from the Department of the Premier), including:
    publication of the resource directory 'Migrants' Melbourne'in several languages
    provision of information to the public
    Advice, investigation, conciliation and arbitration in certain migrant cases (including cases such as, legal problems, workers compensation, neighbourhood problems, housing, recognition of overseas qualifications etc.)
    Receipt and conciliation of complaints of discrimination on the grounds of race (until 1983 the Ministry of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Act 1976 provided for steps to be taken to prevent or remove discrimination against persons because of their ethnic background or characteristics, however, the Act did not include sanctions attached to this objective)
    Community liaison between ethnic groups and government agencies
    Improving communication and understanding between the police and ethnic groups
    Responsibility for the Victoria Welcome Group
    Translation services to Government departments and instrumentalities (from 1979)
    Interpreting services for organisations and individuals (between 1975 and circa 1982 the Interpreting Services Bureau operated within the Department of the Premier)
    specialist legal interpreting services
    Cross Cultural Awareness Programs for persons working with migrant clients
    Student exchange schemes
    Monitoring government policies/reviews to identify discrimination against migrants
    relevant statistical research.

    1991 to 1992

    Analysis of policies and programs which impacted on people of non-English speaking background
    Project development, often in conjunction with other Government departments (examples included: Spanish-speaking Women's Radio Project; Multicultural Nursing Workforce Project; Child Protection Issues Project; Telecom Multilingual Project)
    Community relations, such as
    provision of information and advice to the Attorney-General on racial vilification
    publicity of racism issues
    participation in the Ethnic Affairs/Police Liaison Committee to improve communication and understanding between ethnic groups and the police
    administrative and financial support to World Conference on Religion and Peace, and National Refugee Week
    Involvement in migrant worker issues, such as
    English on the Job initiatives
    occupational health and safety
    recognition of overseas qualifications
    liaison with trade unions
    Promoting the value of ethnic diversity, including
    provision of funds to community based organisations, particularly for projects targeting community relations
    involvement in specific events such as Children's Week, National Association for Visual Arts Survey
    Specialist interpreting and translating services in the areas of health, mental health and education (the history of these services prior to 1991 is subject to further research)

    1992 to ct

    Provision of policy advice to the Government in the areas of immigration, settlement, community relations, ethnic and multicultural affairs
    Input into national and local policies relating to the above areas
    Assisting government and non-government agencies to develop programs and services appropriate to a culturally diverse community
    Representing the Government at interstate and national forums
    Monitoring policies, strategies and planning processes
    Liaison between the Ethnic Affairs Commission, the community and other departments.

  • Do not use this Function for
    Recognition of overseas qualifications
    Liaison with trade unions
    Promoting the value of ethnic diversity, including
    provision of funds to community based organisations, particularly for projects targeting community relations
    involvement in specific events such as Children's Week, National Association for Visual Arts Survey
    Specialist interpreting and translating services in the areas of health, mental health and education (the history of these services prior to 1991 is subject to further research)

    1992 to ct

    Provision of policy advice to the Government in the areas of immigration, settlement, community relations, ethnic and multicultural affairs
    Input into national and local policies relating to the above areas
    Assisting government and non-government agencies to develop programs and services appropriate to a culturally diverse community
    Representing the Government at interstate and national forums
    Monitoring policies, strategies and planning processes
    Liaison between the Ethnic Affairs Commission, the community and other departments.

 
Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function
Background

In 1975 a Community Services Centre was opened by the Premier with an aim to create greater understanding between all members of society and to create equal opportunities for all. In particular, it was intended to provide information on the activities of government departments and instrumentalities, and also to provide a place for the public to put their problems to trained officers. Located within the Premier's Department (VA 2717), the Centre included several bureaux which carried out functions which later developed within the Premier's portfolio. The Migrant Advisory Bureau provided information to migrants about the activities of Government and heard problems facing migrants and the Interpreting Services Bureau provided free interpreting services to migrants.

The ethnic affairs function arose from a concern for the post-migration after care and well-being of migrants. As part of its function the Migrant Advisory Bureau published 'Migrants Melbourne', a directory of community resources and information, in several different languages. The Interpreting Services Bureau provided services for migrants re legal, medical, employment, accommodation and general business. Prior to this only gratuities were paid for interpreting services in a number of departments, including: Chief Secretary; Health; Lands; Labour and Industry and Housing. Interpreter-translators were also employed in the Education Department although the history of these services requires further research.

Ethnic affairs became a more established function of Government when it was transferred to the newly-appointed Minister of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (VRG 68) in 1976. The agency responsible was the Ministry of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (VA 1042) established in 1977. Although the new Ministry assumed responsibility for the substantive ethnic affairs function, the Community Services Centre continued to provide interpreting services until circa 1982 (when the Interpreting Services Bureau became part of the Ministry) as well as an advisory service for migrants as part of its role in the provision of government information.

The Ministry of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Act 1976 (No.8963) was the first legislation in an Australian State to give statutory recognition to a Ministry concerned with migrants and ethnic groups. The State had undertaken an immigration function while the Commonwealth Government had accepted prime responsibility for post-settlement services to migrants, particularly migrants of non-British background. At this time the Commonwealth Government was looking to the States to take new initiatives and responsibilities.

The function of ethnic affairs, as expressed in the 1976 Act, was:
to promote settlement of migrants in the community
to encourage ethnic groups to fully express their identity
to develop community awareness of ethnic cultures
to facilitate the building of a socially cohesive society
to encourage migrants to fully participate in the community
to prevent or remove racial discrimination
to promote the welfare of migrants.

Activities undertaken as part of this function included:
responsibility for the Victoria Welcome Group
provision of financial assistance for projects which furthered the concept of a cohesive but culturally diverse community (included funding of festivals, furnishing community centres, establishment of resource centres)
Cross Cultural Awareness Programs for persons working with migrant
clients
community liaison between ethnic groups and government agencies
publication of the resource directory 'Migrants' Melbourne' in several languages
student exchange schemes
investigation of the needs of ethnic communities and research into ways to meet these needs
translation services to government departments and instrumentalities (from 1979)
seminars and talks relevant to ethnic communities
community education programs to improve understanding and interaction among ethnic groups
investigation, conciliation and arbitration of migrant cases (such as legal problems, workers compensation, neighbourhood problems, housing, recognition of overseas qualifications etc.)
monitoring government policies/reviews to identify discrimination against migrants
relevant statistical research.

The Ethnic Affairs Commission (VA 1029) was established on 9 November 1982 by the Ethnic Affairs Commission Act 1982 (No.9789). This Act repealed the Ministry of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Act 1976 (No.8963) although a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs (VA 1042) continued to exist with the Chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Commission as the Permanent Head of the Ministry from 15 March 1983.

The exact nature of the relationship between the Commission and the Ministry of Ethnic affairs is subject to further research. The Commission comprised three full-time members (the Chairman and two deputies) and ten part-time members, none of whom could be subject to the Public Service Act 1974 (No.8656) in their capacity as Commission members. The Act, however, made provision for public servants to be appointed for "the proper functioning of the Commission". It is therefore evident that between 1983 and 1991 the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs (VA 1042) carried out many of the functions of the Commission as determined by the 1982 Act.

As part of the machinery of government changes in 1991 the "policy development and administrative responsibilities" of the Ethnic Affairs Commission were placed with the Office of Ethnic Affairs, established as an associated administrative unit of the Ministry of Ethnic, Municipal and Community Affairs (MEMCA). As it is assumed that the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs previously undertook the "policy development and administrative responsibilities" of the Commission, the transfer of the substantive ethnic affairs function effectively occurred from the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs to the Office of Ethnic Affairs within MEMCA.

At this time the function encompassed the following activities:
analysis of policies and programs which impacted on people of non-English speaking background

project development, often in conjunction with other Government departments (examples included: Spanish-speaking Women's Radio Project; Multicultural Nursing Workforce Project; Child Protection Issues Project; Telecom Multilingual Project)

community relations, such as
( provision of information and advice to the Attorney-General on racial vilification
( publicity of racism issues
( participation in the Ethnic Affairs/Police Liaison Committee to improve communication and understanding between ethnic groups and the police
( administrative and financial support to World Conference on Religion and Peace, and National Refugee Week

involvement in migrant worker issues, such as
( English on the Job initiatives
( occupational health and safety
( recognition of overseas qualifications
( liaison with trade unions

promoting the value of ethnic diversity, including
( provision of funds to community based organisations, particularly for projects targeting community relations
( involvement in specific events such as Children's Week, National Association for Visual Arts Survey

The Ethnic Affairs Unit was established within the Department of Premier and Cabinet (VA 1039) as part of machinery of government changes introduced in October 1992. The substantive ethnic affairs function, including language services, was transferred to the Unit from the Office of Ethnic Affairs. The Premier once again became responsible for ethnic affairs in conjunction with the Minister for Ethnic Affairs (VRG 76).

The function currently encompasses:
provision of policy advice to the Government in the areas of immigration, settlement, community relations, ethnic and multicultural affairs
input into national and local policies relating to the above areas
assisting government and non-government agencies to develop programs and services appropriate to a culturally diverse community
representing the Government at interstate and national forums
monitoring policies, strategies and planning processes
liaison between the Ethnic Affairs Commission (VA 1029), the community and other departments.

The Commission's role appears to focus on the provision of advice to the Minister, advocacy and community relations, while the Unit undertakes the substantive ethnic affairs function and provides administrative support to the Commission, including maintaining records created by the Commission.

Interpreting and Translating Services

The ethnic affairs function has encompassed:
translation services to Government departments and instrumentalities
interpreting services for organisations and individuals
specialist interpreting and translating services in the legal,health, mental health and education areas (the previous history of these services has been quite fragmented and is subject to further research)

In 1991 the importance of the provision of interpreting and translating services was reflected in the machinery of government changes whereby speciality language services in the areas of health and education, and legal and general language services provided by the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs, were consolidated within the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

The language services, thereafter administered under the name of the Victorian Interpreting and Translating Service (VITS), included the following specialist services:

Legal Interpreting Service
General Interpreting Service
Mental Health Interpreting Service
Central Health Interpreting Service
Education Interpreting Service
Translation Service.

Since 1999, the Victorian Interpreting and Translating Service has operated as a State Business Corporation under the State Owned Enterprises Act 1992

Relationship to Equal Opportunity Function

The Ministry of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Act 1976 (No.8963) included provision for steps to be taken "to prevent or remove discrimination against persons because of their ethnic background or characteristics", although the legislation included no sanctions attached to this objective. The ethnic affairs function included the receipt and conciliation of complaints of racial discrimination under these provisions until 1983.

The Equal Opportunity Act 1977 (No.9025) made it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of sex (including sexual harassment) or marital status in the areas of employment, education, accommodation, and the provision of goods and services. The equal opportunity function encompassed the investigation, conciliation and adjudication of complaints of discrimination on these grounds until July 1983 when, by agreement with the Commonwealth, the grounds of complaint could include unlawful racial discrimination under the federal Racial Discrimination Act 1975. The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (No.10095) subsequently extended the grounds of unlawful discrimination within Victoria to include race, colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origin, and extended the areas to which the Act applies to clubs which receive Government funding or which use Crown land.

The equal opportunity function was the responsibility of the Premier (VRG 50) from 1977 until 1985 and from 1985 it became the responsibility of the Attorney-General (VRG 19).

 
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    Equal opportunity VF 59
    Immigration (twentieth century) VF 138
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Other InformationOther Information
 
Agencies with prime responsibility for this FunctionAgencies with prime responsibility for this Function
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Date of Responsibility Agency Title Agency Number
- 1977 Department of the Premier (also known as Premier's Department 1960-1982) VA 2717
1977 - 1991 Ministry of Ethnic Affairs (also known as Ministry of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs 1977 to 1983) VA 1042
1982 - cont Victorian Multicultural Commission (formerly Ethnic Affairs Commission) VA 1029
1992 - 2002 Department of the Premier and Cabinet VA 1039
1999 - cont Victorian Interpreting and Translating Service (VITS) VA 4254
2002 - 2007 Department for Victorian Communities VA 4562
2007 - 2009 Department of Planning and Community Development VA 4838
2009 - cont Department of the Premier and Cabinet VA 1039
 
Other Agencies responsible for this FunctionOther Agencies responsible for this Function
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Date of Responsibility Agency Title Agency Number
1992 - 2007 Victorian Office of Multicultural Affairs (formerly Ethnic Affairs Unit 1992 - 1996 and Multicultural Affairs unit 1996 - 1999) VA 4193
 
Groups related to this FunctionGroups related to this Function
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Date of Responsibility Group Title Group Number
- 1976 Premier VRG 50
1976 - 1982 Immigration and Ethnic Affairs VRG 68
1982 - cont Multicultural Affairs (previously Ethnic Affairs) VRG 76