Inner West Labor Councillor Sam Iskandar. Photo: Supplied

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BY VANESSA LIM

 

Inner West City Council has drafted a new multicultural policy but whilst it has been open to the public, specifics of the policy are still uncertain.

The new policy has introduced a Multicultural Liaison Officer as well as a Multicultural Committee and Interfaith Reference Group but the definition of these roles isn’t yet clear.

When speaking to Inner West City Labor Councillor Sam Iskandar who moved the motion for specifics on the new roles, it was made clear that the policy was still in the early stages.

It was mentioned that the Multicultural Liaison Officer would be taking on huge amounts of work to prepare reports, resources, and network with residents to develop cultural groups in the inner west, especially the new arrival groups.

Questioned on the specifics to why the Multicultural Liaison Officer was necessary, Councillor Sam Iskandar said, “We must have an officer to look after this strategy full stop. Anything they have concerns with, will be discussed and this officer will take in concerns of the councillors and different groups to arrange for meetings, activities, consultations and everything. it’s a big job and it’s very important.”

“Every position in the council has criteria and they are required to do specific tasks relevant to their role.”

When asked if it would be exclusively cultural events that the officer role would be involved with, Sam Iskandar said, “It’s not only cultural events. We are in a democratic society, and we are really doing very well. We would like to continue and what we are doing is very essential to continue help everyone else.”

Greens Councillor Marghanita Da Cruz had a different take on the Multicultural Liaison Officer though.

“My concerns was that the actual document that’s been produced and put on for public exhibition is probably your standard kind of perspective but it’s actually not very reflective of the inner west communities. So multiculturalism isn’t in the minority, it’s in the majority community that we.”

Councillor Marghanita Da Cruz said, “Having a multicultural officer depends how big a task you’re giving them. You can’t just appoint some low level person and expect them to really do what the UN does – something which is a very complex.”

“I think these sorts of positions need to be made defined. Quite closely and then you need to realise what you’re expecting on this transition and whether it’s realistic that you’ve appointed a person at a very low level to take on what is quite a significant task I mean a lot.”

A multicultural policy isn’t new for the Inner West City Council.

Councillor Sam Iskandar said, “We used to have a multicultural policy in Marrickville and Ashfield but after the amalgamation we had to start a new vision for the new council which was for the inner west. We were developing all sorts of strategic moves to achieve the best for our residents of the area.”

The Multicultural Committee’s role is to give advice to the council and input their thoughts and ideas into new plans and strategies for the council, so they can also have a voice. The issue is that the committee isn’t simply open to the whole community but instead, a select few who would represent the whole of multicultural Inner West.

Councillor Sam Iskandar when asked about the purpose of the Multicultural Committee said, “We really need to get as much as we can from different experienced people to make it as successful as we can.”

Labor Councillor Lucille McKenna said, “I think it that the council can’t do these sort of things without input from the community at the end of the day what we’re going to provide is something that is relevant to the community and what they want is not what we think.”

But the new drafts have raised a couple of concerns within the council in relation to the Multicultural Committee.

Councillor Marghanita Da Cruz said, “The Greens raised concerns that they aren’t actually open committees they’re actually selected people are selected to be on the reference on this advisory committee and that’s problematic because it’s a closed group whereas if it was an open group. If there’s a particular issue that comes in that people could come and speak on that issue and discuss that with the group.”

Independent Councillor John Stamolis also agreed and said, “I don’t agree with that approach. I mean it should always be open to our public and it should be open to the wider community.”

Councillor Sam Iskandar said, “I have spoken to the councillors about this and it’s meant to be open it’s not going to be like only these people can have this meeting and discuss and decide.”

“We really need to hear from the community about their concerns especially when you’re talking to people but how would they come into the committee if they know nothing about it?”

Regardless of that, Councillor Marghanita Da Cruz in relation to the Multicultural Committee said, “It’s very useful that in itself it brings the different groups together. And so having those sort of forums and those ways different groups to talk and engage with each other is really valuable because you actually groups learn from each other.”