SA Introduces South Australian Multicultural Bill 2020

Tuesday 8 June 2021 @ 9.19 a.m. | Legal Research

On 14 October 2020, the South Australian Multicultural Bill 2020 (SA) (‘the Bill’) was introduced into the South Australian House of Assembly by Premier Steven Marshall (‘the Premier’). The Bill proposes to repeal the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission Act 1980 (‘the SAMEAC Act’) and remake it to fit the changing “cultural, linguistic and religious make-up of South Australia”.

On 27 May 2021, the Bill passed the lower house with no amendments and was introduced into the upper house. The Bill has yet to pass the upper house.

Background of the Bill

In his second reading speech of the Bill, the Premier highlighted that the SAMEAC Act was currently the only piece of South Australian legislation on multicultural affairs. The SAMEAC Act also sets out the functions of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission (‘the Commission’).

The Premier acknowledged that since this Act was made in 1980, the diversity seen in South Australia, and the way in which it is perceived and valued, has changed significantly. However

, the SAMEAC Act has not seen any major reforms in 30 years. The Premier stated:

“South Australia is now home to people from more than 200 culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse backgrounds, and it is important that we have a modernised legislation which reflects and accommodates our established as well as the newer and emerging communities”.

The Premier provided an over-arching summary of the objective of the Bill in his second reading speech:

“[The Bill] aim[s] to develop fresh legislation and, by setting a foundation for new multicultural policy directions, affirm the government’s ongoing commitment to building stronger and vibrant multicultural communities”.

Modernising Language 

The Bill seeks to modernise the language used to refer to issues regarding multiculturalism. The Bill proposes to remove the use of the word “ethnic” from both the Act and the Commission itself. If passed, the (currently named) South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission would be known as the South Australian Multicultural Commission. The Premier emphasised that the term “ethnic” was considered “outdated and potentially divisive” in previous consultations. 

The Bill also proposes to incorporate the concept of interculturalism into the legislation “as being inclusive, contemporary and encouraging the exchange of ideas between communities”. The Bill seeks to do so through provisions which help:

“foster policies and practices that promote acceptance, understanding and respect as well as dynamic and inclusive interaction between diverse sections of our community”.

Further Proposed Amendments 

Furhter, the Bill also seeks to provide for the preparation and maintenance of an inclusive, positive and aspirational multicultural charter, which would “reflect a set of clear foundational principles defining what multiculturalism means to South Australia”.

If passed, the Bill would require that this charter also recognise the First Nations Peoples of South Australia and their contributions to the diversity of the State. 

The Bill additionally seeks to provide for the introduction of two new functions of the Commission. These new functions would be:

  • to raise awareness and promote understanding of interculturalism; and
  • to promote the South Australian multicultural charter and the resulting advantages of a multicultural society.

The Premier concluded his speech by recognising that the Bill would be a “timely reaffirmation of the importance of multiculturalism to South Australia”. The Bill was introduced in the fortieth year since the SAMEAC Act was enacted.

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South Australian Multicultural Bill 2020 (SA) and explanatory materials available from TimeBase's LawOne service. 

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