Federal Government initiatives (such as the Task Force of the Australian Assistance Plan) in 1972 gave support to local and regional groups seeking equality of opportunity for immigrant communities. Canberra was placing ethnic affairs at the forefront of public policy. In 1974 the Inner Western Suburbs Regional Ethnic Communities’ Group was formed and later (July 1975) became the Ethnic Communities’ Council. (1)
In response to these community campaigns the state coalition government under Premier Tom Lewis devised procedures to facilitate access to the bureaucracy by ethnic groups. Also the Department of Youth and Community Services established a division (the Ethnic Affairs Section) to assist in its work with immigrants. Another Lewis government initiative was the creation of a Consultative Council on Ethnic Affairs to advise the Government on housing, interpreter services, and education issues. This Council would be assisted by a series of regional advisory committees, however, only two (in the Hunter and Wollongong regions) were formed before the coalition was defeated at the polls in mid 1976. (2)
On June 21 1976 the new Labour Premier, Neville Wran, announced his cabinet’s decision to establish an Ethnic Affairs Commission. Under the Ethnic Affairs Act, 1976 ( Act No. 76, 1976) (3) the Ethnic Affairs Commission’s initial work involved the research and investigation of ethnic affairs with special emphasis on promoting the integration of different ethnic groups. The constitution and functions of a Commission to implement policy decisions in this area was also examined. (4)
The Ethnic Affairs Commission interacted with a number of new government bodies all concerned with equal opportunity issues in society. These included the -
* Anti-Discrimination Board which came into operation in June 1977 which addressed racial discrimination
* Review of New South Wales Government Administration under the direction of Dr. Peter Wilenski which deal with recruitment, promotion, equality of opportunity, qualifications.
* Women’s Coordination Unit of the Premier’s Department whose responsibilities included creating opportunities for migrant women.
In 1978 the Ethnic Affairs Commission submitted its report 'Participation' which outlined a concept of multiculturalism that went beyond preserving cultural heritage to a society where minority groups would achieve total participation in the New South Wales social and political system. (5)
To implement this philosophy of equal opportunity 'Participation' recommended that a Commission should be established as a strong and stable body to ensure that all elements of the New South Wales Government Administration come to regard ethnic affairs as part of their ordinary, day to day attitudes and thinking. (6)
A new Ethnic Affairs Commission was established as a permanent government authority on 1 December 1979. It is established under the terms of the Ethnic Affairs Commission Act, Act No. 23, 1979. (7)
(1) Murphy, Brian The Other Australia: Experiences of Migration, Cambridge University Press (in association with the Ethnic Affairs Commission) Melbourne, 1993 pp. 226-228.
(2) Ibid p. 229.
(3) Ethnic Affairs Commission Act, Act No. 76, 1976 commencement date 2 May 1977 New South Wales Government Gazette, Vol. 2, 29 April 1977, p. 1613.
(4) Ethnic Affairs Commission Act, Act No. 76, 1976 section 14.1
(5) Annual Report of the Ethnic Affairs Commission of New South Wales for the Year ended 30 June 1982, p. 9.
(6) Ibid. 1982, p.9
(7) Ethnic Affairs Commission Act, Act No. 23, 1979 commencement date 1 December 1979 New South Wales Government Gazette, Vol. 4, 30 November 1979, p. 5974.
(1) Ethnic Affairs Commission of New South Wales ‘Action Status of "Participation" as at 30 June 1979’, Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1979-80 Vol. 5, pp. 889-909.