George Lekakis describes the strategies of the ECCV in relation to Prime Minister Howard
23 February 2009
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Changes were happening very rapidly in policy and legislative terms and there needed to be a voice. And fortunately in Victoria, people rallied around the Ethnic Communities’ Council because it had that tradition of having people who were outspoken, the Victor Borgs, the Maurice Gaucis, Bonici (sp?) and of course Walter Lippmann who I’d seen in action and I admired them. Because I admired their tenacity and I admired their integrity about doing the best they could to bring about systemic and policy reform. I remember Walter on the first Migrant Resource Centre.
And – in Melbourne, which was subsequently closed. So we went onto the ECC and then we were in the papers every day.
I was elected chair and basically people drew the line on various policy matters and said, “We need to make a stand.” And each time Ruddock said something, the ECC had reply back. Each time he made a budget announcement about the exponential growth in money for detention centres, we would do a summary of that and go forward with a reply. You know, is it a good investment to incarcerate 1000 potential asylum seekers? Or can that money be best used for other purposes?
Then we started seeing challenges through our multiculturalism and overall policy framework that governed Australia for so long. We always saw Howard being difficult, in not being accepting of the term but we had the Council for Multicultural Australia and we had other conservative elements in the multicultural sector which were always challenging the status quo, up until about two or three years ago, where Howard made his cut in the sand and said: he no longer sees value in the term, but he was signalling a bigger agenda.