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Refugee Language Program should not be axed in Sydney Uni cost-cutting frenzy

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 9 Feb 2012

Australian Greens Senator and higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon today called on Sydney University’s Vice Chancellor to give a public commitment to find funds to retain the Refugee Language Program (SMH, 9/2/12, http://bit.ly/zsahcM).                   

“Sydney University Vice Chancellor Michael Spence will do enormous damage to the reputation of Sydney University if he oversees the closure of the Refugee Language Program and does not find the meagre $42,000 it requires annually,” Senator Rhiannon said. 

"If Vice Chancellor Michael Spence cannot be convinced to save the Refugee Language Program, the Greens will call on Higher Education Minister Chris Evans to stump up the money to ensure the Refugee Language Program continues.

“The move to shut down this program gives weight to growing concerns that the University is not negotiating in good faith with staff and their union. The NTEU has revealed the university has a hit list of 750 academics who could lose their job in the cost-cutting frenzy.

The Refugee Language Program was established in 2004 and offers free language tuition to refugees. All teachers are volunteers.

"The Refugee Language Program runs on the smell of an oily rag. It has only one part-time staff member and plays an important role assisting refugees take up a happy and productive life in Australia.

"It is a mean-spirited decision to target the Refugee Language Program and a small budget ask for Mr Spence to keep this important program alive,” Senator Rhiannon said.

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