One of the most enjoyable elements of my job is being asked to take part in the many ceremonies and openings in my electorate, and I especially enjoy those where small children are involved. It is always a privilege and an honour to attend these events and I end up learning so much about my community and the excellent work being done by so many Canberrans. One such event I had the privilege to attend was the recent official opening by the ACT Minister for Community Services, Joy Burch, of upgrades to the Chinese Australian Early Childhood Centre in Mawson. The upgrades were funded from a generous $180,000 grant by the ACT government which provided much-needed office and reception space for the expanding centre.
The centre provides long day care for up to 46 children under the age of six. As the name suggests, it also has a focus on bilingual education in Mandarin, helping to develop a proficiency in and appreciation for the Chinese language and culture from an early age. To my knowledge, this centre is unique in Canberra if not Australia for offering Mandarin language education at such a young age. It was also interesting to note that many of the staff there are native Mandarin speakers and had been teaching at the school for over a decade. This work at the centre dovetails with the language programs at Mawson Primary School, which is colocated with the childcare centre. The centre has been running for over 25 years, thanks to the fine work of the Association for Learning Mandarin in Australia. It was obvious from the conversations I had with the parents and staff that, apart from the great teaching of Mandarin, it was also a great childcare centre. Every one of the parents I spoke to at the opening mentioned the dedication of staff to their work and the sense of community that has been generated as a result.
I believe that there are now plans well underway to expand the model of this centre to another location in Canberra. In fact, I am told that just this morning the President of the Association for Learning Mandarin in Australia is in conversation with University of Canberra to locate the childcare centre there. I would like to congratulate Ian McLean and Dr Mandy Scott from the Association for Learning Mandarin in Australia and the rest of their team for the promotion of the Mandarin language. I would also like to thank the school staff, especially director Judy Kuzma, Laura Cai and Yongmei Uksi, for organising a wonderful singing concert of the children on the day of the launch. It was really lovely. Finally, I would like to thank Sam Wong for his continued advocacy of and dedication to multiculturalism and the local Canberra Chinese community.