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State government initiatives - Multiculturalism in practice South Australia

Alessandro Gardini.

Alessandro Gardini on the beginning of the Ethnic Affairs Branch.



Date Added:

18 July 2002


Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1993.


mov (Quicktime);

File size:



36 secs


Former Senior Policy Officer, Office of Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs of South Australia

We started with an Ethnic Affairs Branch, of course, under (former Premier, Don) Dunstan, and I was appointed, I think in the end of September, or end of October '77. And the Branch was a result of a working party on interpreting and translating services. The Act went through in 1980, and the Commission was set up in June 1981.

They (the government) looked at the New South Wales experience. They also, I suppose, listened to the public view, that there ought to be a semi-independent voice of the community and so on. And the Commission modelling in New South Wales seemed to be a model that impressed people.


And I guess the other thing that perhaps was also equally important in that period was the Galbally Report. By then it was well focussed and well on the way to implementation, and it provided a more structured approach to something near my understanding of... still, I mean, even Galbally was a balance between mainstreaming and specialist services - in fact perhaps more specialist services than the mainstream.

But from a Liberal policy point of view, it gave a philosophical approach to ethnic affairs that was absolutely unheard of in the seventies. (Prime Minister Malcolm) Fraser gave them a vision. And the local Liberal Party had also been fairly moderately wet in their philosophy, very supportive of multiculturalism right through their history. There’d been motions in Parliament when they were in the minority and they voted in favour of multiculturalism. Those motions were really meant to criticise their federal counterparts in a sense. So it’s been one of the features of South Australia that there’s been almost a bipartisan approach to ethnic affairs.

In the seventies you had this advocacy approach, the welfarism dominated. It wasn’t necessarily a view of the communities, but it was certainly the view of governments, that you set up specialised services. In the eighties you started having the push for the mainstreaming of services, and when the Labor Party came to power in '82, they set up, for example, a series of task forces... but each task force would have to be owned by a portfolio - education, welfare, health, labour.

We did one in the arts, which wasn’t a task force, but virtually was the same approach, and that meant that we started then saying to departments, ‘You have to own this. You’ve got to develop your own initiatives in this area.’ In some areas the initiatives were already there to a large extent, like education and others. It was a great stimulus to have these task forces.

Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1993.