FAIRFIELD community leaders have hit back at former federal Opposition leader Mark Latham for describing the lack of English spoken in Fairfield as "disgraceful".
In a video published on his Outsiders Facebook page titled What's Gone Wrong With Australian Multiculturalism: Ethnic Enclaves in Fairfield, Mr Latham said 90 per cent of people he approached for comment declined due to language barriers.
"How can we have a proper cohesive, cooperative multicultural community if people don't even speak the basic language of the nation," he said in the video.
Mr Latham also suggested "ethnic enclaves" in Fairfield and Cabramatta indicated "genuine multiculturalism" was not happening.
"The evidence from the past, the community here is that people don't get down to a place like Cabramatta, which is just a five-minute drive away, talk to the Asian community, get to know people, make friends across racial and ethnic and cultural boundaries. It's not happening," he said.
Assyrian Resource Centre manager Carmen Lazar said she was "absolutely disgusted and ashamed" by Mr Latham's comments.
Ms Lazar said it was inevitable Mr Latham would encounter people of non-English speaking backgrounds in Fairfield because of the many Syrian and Iraqi refugees resettled as a part of the Federal Government's special humanitarian intake.
"Many individuals and families within the Fairfield LGA have just newly arrived from countries in which they were faced with torture and trauma with many of them even been grateful to be alive at this present moment due to their circumstance in their home country," she said.
"I do not find it respectful to approach individuals on the streets and force a microphone on their face asking them to answer these questions.
"As Australians we should not use the term 'disappointed' in regards to people who have had to forcefully move their lives across thousands of miles; we should put ourselves even for a minute in their situation and so should Mr Latham."
Ms Lazar encouraged Mr Latham to familiarise himself with the many programs in Fairfield that assisted refugees to learn English, such as Navitas English Australia, MTC Fairfield and the Assyrian Australian Association Assyrian Resource Centre.
Fairfield City councillor and DAWN CEO Dai Le said Mr Latham possessed a narrow-minded view of Fairfield.
"I do acknowledge that quite a lot of people cannot speak English and that is part of our settlement and migration program and the government needs to do more," she said.
"However what Mr Latham failed to identify are the children of these people who can't speak English. My mother couldn't speak English, but I can.
"People who came here with no English work hard for their kids to speak the language and for their kids to be part of wider society."
Asked for comment, Mr Latham told the Advance: "If people think the video is the problem and multiculturalism is working to plan in Fairfield, I'm sorry, but they are off with the pixies."
In the video, Mr Latham called on McMahon federal Labor MP Chris Bowen to encourage people in his electorate to learn English.
Mr Latham told the Advance Mr Bowen was "the worst, a moral coward and political sellout".
Mr Bowen said he had no plan to respond to Mr Latham's "pathetic attack".
"Mr Latham can flit into the area to boost his failed media career all his likes, but the rest of us don't need to respond to him," Mr Bowen said.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.