Vic govt launches diversity agenda

The Victorian government has announced a series of initiatives it hopes will encourage residents to “celebrate not simply tolerate” cultural and religious difference across the community.

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The “Victorian. And Proud of it” campaign includes $15 million to help new arrivals learn English and find a job, a $4 million multicultural sports fund and a $2.3 million awareness program to ensure Victorians know their legal rights.

It also has a digital literacy and citizenship program to “help young people avoid being manipulated and drawn to extremism”.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the state needed to embrace diversity in every part of life.

“That does not always mean it is easy. The best things never are,” he told an audience of cultural leaders in Melbourne on Sunday.

Multicultural Affairs Minister Robin Scott said there was an “unspoken social contract” that Victorians, both newly arrived and born here, must contribute to society through work.

He said learning English was key to full participation in the community.

The government’s so-called “multicultural policy” comes in the context of rising fear taking hold around the world that “turns us against the stranger and closes our heart to hope”, Mr Scott said.

Another initiative in the campaign called Right to Debate will be a forum for Victorians to “respectfully” discuss controversial or difficult topics.

“Our diversity requires us to be honest with each other, to be unafraid to sometimes have difficult conversations,” Mr Andrews said.

Leaders from the South Sudanese and Shia Muslim communities told AAP they were encouraged by the government’s new initiatives, which they hope will give them a greater voice in communicating their own stories and issues.