Labor member for Calwell Maria Vamvakinou listens during Question Time in the House of Representatives in December 2020. Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
The federal member for Calwell Maria Vamvakinou, has stated that she stands resolute on “equality of opportunity” for affordable childcare, education, skills training, and language learning are essentials of nation building, especially in a post-COVID environment, in the lead-up to the election on 21 May.
“I want people to advance themselves, to have equality of opportunity,” she told Neos Kosmos.
Ms Vamvakinou said “young people need to be able to train for jobs that we have got shortages in.”
The veteran Labor politician is not prone to enthusiasms but is cautiously optimistic about the possible victory of a Labor government.
“I’m happy with how polls are consolidating, we are in a good position, I am very focused, and Anthony [Albanese] and the team are focused on building on the momentum,”
Her own electorate has high disadvantage, is “a migrant area” and lacks sufficient access to childcare, education, and training opportunities.
Ms Vamvakinou said that wage stagnation, especially for those on minimum wages is a key issue in this election.
“The people in my electorate know that it’s been a long time since any increase in their wages, but their bills continue to rise, the whole cost of living is rising.
She said that wage increases are fundamental to “the well-being of the community and how people meet the post COVID challenges like supply chains.”
“Things are going up, food is going up, white goods are going up, everything is up, and the community has to bear the cost, and part of the post-COVID issue is to deal with wages.”
Ms Vamvakinou went on to say the Morrison government was “out of touch with ordinary people.
The government hasn’t fully understood the impact that COVID has had on the lives of people.”
The member for Calwell has had over twenty years in parliament and has been through six bruising federal election campaigns. She has sat on a pile of parliamentary committees like Native Title and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Fund, Employment and Workplace Relations, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and Communications and the Arts.
Ms Vamvakinou said that equality of opportunity begins with childcare which “must be affordable.”
“Childcare it is about equality of opportunity, and as a recent report pointed out, my electorate has a high number of disadvantaged children,” she told Neos Kosmos.
For the educator and politician affordable childcare is an opportunity for children “to equalise with others, it gives women, especially young mums, an opportunity to work, not spend all the money they earn on childcare,” Ms Vamvakinou said.
“Women need to participate in the workforce and help their families.
“Many are newcomers to this country, so working is an important way of socialising, of getting to know the community and being able to use the English language,” added Ms Vamvakinou.
Ms Vamvakinou said that many of the children in her seat speak a language other than English at home, and “while that is not a disadvantage, it means if parents aren’t able to get out and about the house, if these children can’t get to childcare, then it limits opportunity, and English language learning.”
Education and training are “huge issues and we’re focusing on them” she said.
“Our commitment is to reskill Australia we want to give people opportunities to be able to meet the new challenges that are to come.
“No limits should exist in education and this government is not investing enough in education,” Ms Vamvakinou said.
For the Greek Australian politician language maintenance is crucial as is language learning. Languages other than English need to be taken serious at a policy level “at the highest level of government,” she added.
“Multicultural communities should be able to retain their language, ask any educator about bilingualism and multilingualism, about how being able to speak more than one language is an advantage to our country.
“We should be in a position where our students, no matter where they are, embrace another language and be given the opportunity to do so,” Ms Vamvakinou said.
The member for Calwell said that languages in this country that are being taught in the community is “because communities had to fight for them.
The national curriculum should elevate language learning at a level where this country can be seen as a multilingual society.”