The NSW Opposition has promised Catholic educators additional funds to teach English to hundreds of refugee children from Syria and Iraq, saying that the State Liberal Government had broken its promise to provide them.
Opposition Leader Luke Foley made the announcement at a dinner with the Chaldean community on Saturday night in Edensor Park, in the presence of the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Australia Amel Shamon Nona.
(Archbishop Nona was previously the Archbishop of Mosul in northern Iraq, and was forced to flee in 2014 when ISIS invaded the city.)
The policy means a future Labor Government would provide a one-off spending commitment of $2.5 million in additional funding to help refugee students settle into school.
Mr Foley told media: “A Labor government I lead in 2019 will top up the funds this Liberal government has refused to the non-government schools sector to help our newest and poorest arrivals learn English.”
“The sooner these children learn English the sooner they and their families assimilate. They’ve suffered enough.”
A spokesperson for the NSW Catholic Education Commission (NSW CEC) confirmed that the Department of Premier and Cabinet had invited Catholic education, as well as the public and private education sectors, to a series of roundtable meetings to discuss how they could all collectively help enrol refugee students and the resources that would be needed.
Following those meetings, the Baird Government announced three key measures, one of which was funding for intensive English Language classes for refugee students from Syria and Iraq.
“On this basis Sydney Catholic Schools and Holy Saviour School, Greenacre, both enrolled between them hundreds of students from these war-torn countries and provided them with intense English Language classes from within their existing budgets on the understanding some government support would be forthcoming,” the NSW CEC spokesperson said.
“We were advised in writing, earlier this year, that all of the funding for intense English Language courses had been spent in public schools.”
NSW is experiencing a substantial influx of refugees from wars in both Syria and Iraq – and school principals were given an explicit commitment about additional funding to help them settle.
Over 400 children from Iraq and Syria have been taken in by Catholic schools.
Schools such as Mary MacKillop College, Wakeley, Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School, Fairfield and Patrician Brothers College, Fairfield are leading the way in taking Iraqi and Syrian refugees into their schools.
Intensive English teaching is provided to the students, often before they transition into the mainstream school curriculum.