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    The Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, and Staff of the Office for Multicultural Affairs at the launch of the National Agenda for a Multicultural Society in 1989, courtesy of Allen & Unwin.
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Office of Multicultural Affairs (1987 - 1995)

From
1987
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
To
1995
Occupations
Government Agency

Summary

The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) was a division of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It was established early in 1987 to advise the Prime Minister directly on issues relating to Australian multicultural society. The purpose of the office was to be that of a 'bridge-builder', linking community and government to further the policy of multiculturalism. To that end, it had a liaison and Community Information Branch and a Policy and Research Branch. The focus of the community information program was on building upon research undertaken and evaluating ongoing projects. Although most staff were located in Canberra, there were Regional Coordinators in each State and in the Northern Territory, so there was some attention to decentralised services.

In early 1995 the functions of the OMA were to be transferred to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. For administration purposes, OMA officially ceased to be part of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on 26 January 1995.

Details

The Office of Multicultural Affairs aimed to:

  • Promote acceptance of and respect for cultural differences;
  • Improve communication between community groups and Government;
  • Ensure equal access and equity for all groups to government services and programs, including health, social welfare, employment, training and education;
  • Develop a National Agenda of practical long-term strategies for multiculturalism;
  • Advise Government on multicultural programs and services after consultation with community groups;
  • Provide information on multicultural policies.

The OMA's first head, Peter Shergold, adopted the view that, as a bridgebuilder, the agency would be best served by appointing community workers to the regional coordinators' positions. It is said that he believed that is was easier to teach community advocates how to be bureaucrats than it was to teach bureaucrats how to liaise with the community. This type of thinking led to Beryl Mulder being appointed to the position of Regional Coordinator for the Northern Territory. It also led to innovative programs, such as employing bilingual officers to run the OMA's consultative programs. This meant that consultations could be managed in community languages, but reports could be written in English. This process resulted in a series of Policy Options Papers, many of which informed debate about access and equity to services for women of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Sources used to compile this entry: Telephone conversation with Beryl Mulder, 2006-06-05.

Related entries

Related Women

  • Mulder, Beryl (1941 - )

    Beryl Mulder was the Regional Coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) for the Northern Territory from 1988 until 1995, when the OMA's activities were absorbed by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (DIEA). She continued to work for the DIEA as a community and multicultural affairs liaison officer until 2000 but found the work environment and culture less to her liking than when she worked for the OMA.

Archival resources

National Archives of Australia, Sydney Office

  • Correspondence files, Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, annual single number series, May 1988 - Jan 1995, P2681; National Archives of Australia, Sydney Office. Details

Digital resources

Title
The Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, and Staff of the Office for Multicultural Affairs at the launch of the National Agenda for a Multicultural Society in 1989
Type
Image
Date
1989
Place
Canberra
Control
Dr Sev Ozdowski
Publisher
Allen & Unwin

Details

Nikki Henningham

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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