Push to get more Aussie kids speaking their native language

About a third of Australia’s school population speak a foreign language at home.

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But despite their advanced cognitive ability, many don’t retain their mother tongue and some fall behind their peers at school. 

To tackle the issue, the University of Western Sydney and the Fairfield City Council have launched a new forum for community groups to share their ideas and experiences.

Nisrine El-Choueifati, from Ethnic Child Care Family and Community Services, said bilingual children were more flexible, creative and better at problem solving than their monolingual peers. 

However she said some parents feared teaching their children their native language, because they thought it would impede on school learning. 

“Families can have guilt or shame or misinformation and doubt as to will this language make my child delayed or will this language, will other people tease them because they speak another language,” Ms El-Choueifati said. “And when a family has that it’s so important to get involved and give them the right information.” 

According the the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 18.2 per cent per cent of the population speaks another language at home.

Mandarin, Italian and Arabic are the most common.

Mandarin, Punjabi, and Tagalog have shown the fastest growth.

But despite Australia’s multilingual classrooms the most popular languages are not widely taught at school.

Dr Ruying Qi, from the University of Western Sydney said parents needed to take an active role in their child’s language education.

“Learning their community language, or a second language, actually helps them learn English and literacy development and other interpersonal social development so it’s actually a good investment.” Dr Qi said.

Experts hope the Australian Curriculum Review – due to be released mid August – will provide some solutions to help children retain their native language while at school. 

Professor of Chinese Language and Literature in the University of Macau, Daming Xu, said a completely new approach may be more successful.

“I would suggest we abandon the concept of foreign language teaching. We redefine it as community language teaching. We teach only the language we can have native speakers to interact with, so in this way Australia has very good conditions to teach.” Mr Xu said

Abbott denounces ‘barbaric’ image of child holding head

The boy, wearing a cap, checked pants and a blue shirt, struggles with both arms to hold up the head in the picture reportedly posted on the Twitter account of a Sydney man who is now an Islamic State fighter.

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The shocking photo, taken in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, is believed to be that of Khaled Sharrouf’s son; posted with the words, “Thats my boy!”

Mr Abbott said the picture was further evidence of the barbarism of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIL or ISIS.

“I believe there are more photographs in newspapers in Australia today of the kind of hideous atrocities that this group is capable of,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

Defence Minister David Johnston said he was disgusted by the picture.

“I’m obviously revolted,” he told ABC radio.

Senator Johnston said it underscored the importance of the government’s proposed counter-terrorism laws.

However, he stressed it should not be taken out of context and condemned the picture as a “shocking misrepresentation” of Islam and Muslims.

“I’m very upset about this sort of thing completely colouring our view of Muslims,” Senator Johnston said.

“The vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving and peaceful people.”

The picture is one of several photos posted by Sharrouf, who security agencies believe travelled to Syria with his family. One shows Sharrouf also holding the decapitated head.

Another photo shows Sharrouf dressed in camouflage fatigues and posing with his three young sons who are holding guns, the flag of the Islamic State behind them.

They appear to be aged around four, six and seven, News Corps Australia reports.

Sharrouf, a convicted terrorist, is wanted by Australian Federal Police over crimes in Syria and Iraq, which include the shooting execution of a captured Iraqi official in the desert outside the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Major policies take time to pass: Hockey

Peter Costello is heralded by the Liberal Party as the greatest treasurer of all time.

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Except when it comes to his thoughts on the federal government’s $7 GP co-payment, that is.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has dismissed as “not good advice” his Liberal predecessor’s thoughts on giving up on the initiative.

Mr Costello has called on Mr Hockey to “reboot the whole argument” on the budget and dump measures unlikely to pass the Senate.

But Mr Hockey insists the co-payment is a key part of the government’s economic action strategy that puts a price signal on visits to the doctor, ensuring Medicare is sustainable in the long term.

He says it is not unusual to have major policies held up in the Senate, citing the passage of the GST during Mr Costello’s stewardship of the budget and economy.

“I think people are getting a little ahead of themselves,” Mr Hockey said on Monday.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten questioned from whom the treasurer was taking advice if he was so openly dismissing it from a Liberal stalwart.

“Who does Joe Hockey listen to other than the person in the mirror?” he said.

Labor also hit out at the treasurer’s pledge to use an appropriation bill to bypass the Senate over his $5 billion asset-recycling plan, saying advice from the Parliamentary Library suggested such a move would fail.

The scheme aims to reward states and territories that privatise existing assets and use the proceeds to fund new economic-enhancing infrastructure.

Mr Hockey is surprised Labor and the Greens are so determined to block more than $40 billion of new infrastructure that would create thousands of jobs at a time of rising unemployment.

But his door is always open to “sensible senators” who are prepared to present an alternative budget plan.

Some have done so and their proposals are now being analysed.

People urged to think about super earlier

Many Australians approaching retirement face the stark reality of not being able to afford a bucket list of dreams and will just end up kicking one.

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So much for those grand plans after a lifetime of work, raising a family and paying off a mortgage.

More than half of 1000 respondents to an online survey by REST Industry Super say they have a retirement bucket list.

But less than a third think they’ll be able to tick off all the items.

Worse still, one in six don’t think they will be able to achieve anything on that list.

REST Industry Super’s CEO Damian Hill says too often people underestimate the cost of retirement.

“The gap between what people think they need to retire on and what they require in reality is often significant,” he says.

While most of the respondents to the survey do not have the benefit of a lifetime of superannuation, Mr Hill is urging people to take an interest in their superannuation earlier in life.

Consolidating super accounts, salary sacrificing and taking an active interest in how their super is invested are small steps people can take earlier in life to maximise retirement returns.

Mr Hill says creating a bucket list is a strong motivational tool when it comes to super.

The latest Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Retirement Standard shows that a couple looking to achieve a “comfortable” retirement needs to spend $57,817 a year, while those seeking a modest retirement lifestyle need to spend $33,509 a year.

WHAT AUSTRALIANS WANT IN RETIREMENT:

* 52 per cent have a retirement bucket list

* 53 per cent want to travel the world

* 43 per cent: a road trip

* 36 per cent: to visit a famous attraction like the Rio Carnival

* 30 per cent: to leave something for the kids

* 15 per cent: to write a book

* 14 per cent: to swim with dolphins

* 11 per cent: to learn to play a musical instrument

* 2 per cent: to bungee jump or skydive

* 1 per cent: to run a marathon.

Source: REST Industry Super

Amnesty slams US over Afghan deaths

The families of thousands of civilians killed by American forces in Afghanistan have been left without justice or compensation, an Amnesty International report says, in a damning indictment of the US military as it withdraws.

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The report said it had gathered evidence of “a deeply flawed US military justice system that cements a culture of impunity” in dealing with Afghan civilian deaths and injuries caused in NATO coalition operations since 2001.

President Hamid Karzai has often castigated US forces for civilian casualties, but NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) says it takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and investigates each alleged incident.

The report said Amnesty researchers interviewed 125 Afghans who had first-hand information about 16 separate attacks that resulted in civilians casualties, as well as collating data from 97 reported incidents since 2007.

“After any incident in which civilians have been killed by US forces, (the US must) ensure… wherever there is sufficient admissible evidence, suspects are prosecuted,” said the report entitled “Left in the Dark”.

It detailed a US bombing in 2012 when women were collecting firewood in the mountains of Laghman province.

Seven women and girls were killed and seven more were injured.

Ghulam Noor, who lost his 16-year-old daughter Bibi Halimi in the attack, brought the female bodies to the district centre after hearing NATO forces claimed that only insurgents had been killed.

“We had to show them that it was women who were killed,” he told Amnesty International.

“I have no power to ask the international forces why they did this. I can’t bring them to court.”

Amnesty said villagers filed complaints with the provincial governor, but international forces in Afghanistan are immune from Afghan legal processes and no one ever contacted family members to investigate the attack.

The ISAF press office in Kabul referred inquiries over the report to the US Department of Defense.