Michael Christodoulou AM applauds community language school funding boost

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CEO of the NSW Federation of Community Language Schools, Michael Christodoulou AM, has applauded the NSW Government’s decision to allocate $10.18 million to the schools and boost the rich tapestry of multiculturalism in NSW.

Announced on Wednesday, Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said the 587 Community Language Schools across the state are vital to serve the thriving multicultural community. 

“NSW is the most culturally diverse state in the country and we are proud to embrace the many languages and cultures that contribute to our society,” Ms Mitchell said.

Speaking to The Greek Herald, Michael Christodoulou AM revealed that he has meeting coming up with the government to determine where it will be more suitable to allocate the funds and how to get more out of it.

“Definitely it is for the sector, whether it’s for up-skilling teachers or technology I don’t know yet. But this is what we’ll be lobbying. To make sure that that money is distributed accordingly,” Christodoulou said, adding that majority of the funds will go to benefiting the children.

Michael Christodoulou with the Prime Minister of Fiji. Photo: Supplied

“We’re very happy that both governments are involved and they’re assisting community language schools.”

The funding was announced during the Foundation’s 2021 Annual Gala Dinner at the Bankstown Sports Club, which also featured messages from the Prime Minister and the Premier of NSW.

Upon the announcement of the funding, Minister for Multiculturalism Natalie Ward thanked the 3,210 volunteer teachers in the Community Languages Schools, which taught 62 different languages to students in the out-of-school hours program last year.

Christodoulou meanwhile said the Federation is currently dealing with teaching 87 different languages. Coming from a Greek background, Christodoulou said the Hellenic language is one of the most substantial being taught in schools.

“At Community language schools, students actually learn languages. Governments have realised that and that is why they’re investing more money,” Christodoulou added.

The CEO added that in the last three years across Australia, the community languages program has gained $30 million, plus an increase to the students per capita funding of another $40 million.

Victor Dominello MP. Photo: Warren John Duncan

“So you’re talking about announcements of around 70 million, just for our sector here in New South Wales.”

Christodoulou went on to thank the NSW Premier and Australia’s state and federal government’s for their contributions to the sector.

“If you go to many other countries around the world, I can assure you they don’t give money for students to learn their own heritage languages. So we’re very happy and very blessed that governments think like that.”

“Gladys Berejiklian, as she said in her message the other day, she is the product of a community language school because she went to an Armenian school. So she understands it.”

The Federation recently provided two fifty-dollar gift cards for purchases in IGA Supermarkets to each of the young Thai, Nepalese, Greek and Portuguese speakers who have come forward seeking assistance.

Lucia Johns. Photo: Supplied

The President of the Federation, Lucia Johns, who handed out the assistance at the organisation’s headquarters in Dulwich Hill, said: “Many of these young people remain hidden victims of the pandemic even 18 months after it started. Their financial situation has become exceedingly difficult as a lot of casual work has disappeared.”

“The fact that dozens of young people turned up at our office to seek assistance tells me they have a great need of support. I was particularly concerned at the number of young women with babies who were seeking assistance”, she said

Asked about the Foundation’s next steps for the future, Christodoulou revealed that they are in talks with the Federal Government to help build community language schools.

“We would like our teachers to up-skill themselves. That’s priority number one. We want them to go digital if they could, because students these days prefer digital rather than the old style teaching there.”

“In the next two years, you’re going to hear a lot more things this way, for all our schools. Both our President Lucia Johns, and myself as CEO, are very happy with the announcement the other day and we are hoping that we’ll be able to hear more announcements over the next 12 months.”

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