Top 10 Languages Spoken in Australia, 2016 Census

Top 10 Languages Spoken in Australia, 2016 Census

The top languages spoken in Australia confirms our changing diversity.

The Australian population as at the 2016 Census was 23.4m people, compared to 21.5m in 2011, up 8.8%.  The 2016 Census data released today confirms the changing face of Australia. Italian, is now the fifth most spoken language, other than English. It was number one at the 2006 Census and number two in 2011. 

One in five Australians now speak a language other than English at home.

Growth in Asian and Indian languages are obvious. The most dramatic is Mandarin, now almost double the next largest language group, Arabic. Mandarin has grown by over 170% in the decade to 2016. The total number of Chinese speakers (Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu and others) now exceed 927,000 (our earlier prediction of 1m was pretty close!).

Top 10 Languages Australia 2016 Census

The growth is even more obvious when we graphed the growth (or decline) of the top 5 languages spoken in Australia.

Top 5 languages spoken in Australia

Languages other than English spoken at home, 2016 Census.

You’ll hear dramatic stats about the number of people born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas. This is potentially misleading because it includes those born in the UK, NZ, USA and other English speaking countries.

If you’re looking at targeting people from different cultures who might speak other languages then the table below might be more relevant.

Low English proficiency Australia

The number of people who speak a language other than English at home has increased by almost 1 million to 4.8m, which is 20.8% of the Australian population. The number of people with low English proficiency has also jumped to almost 820,000.

A Corporate Cultural and Food Experience

A Corporate Cultural and Food Experience

You can rack up big bucks on corporate entertainment, or stand out from the crowd and give them an rich and interesting cultural experience. IDENTITY Communications, the intelligent multicultural marketing agency has a suggestion…

Last year a PwC report found report found that 82.7% of people who work in media and entertainment are monolingual and speak only English at home. Most live in Sydney and are clustered round the Inner West and Eastern Suburbs with the top 10 suburbs shown below:

  • North Bondi
  • Newtown/Camperdown/Darlington
  • Leichhardt/Annandale
  • Surry Hills
  • Potts Point
  • Bondi/Tamarama/Bronte
  • Coogee/Clovelly
  • Paddington
  • Randwick
  • Redfern/Chippendale

This is dramatically different from the demographic make up of Sydney, where one in three speaks a language other than English at home (2011 Census, ABS). According to ThinkTV research released this month, “media and advertising types are living in a bubble called AdLand“.

Cabramatta main street

John street, Cabramatta

Last year, a media agency contacted IDENTITY Communications to run a food tour for their team of 20 people. The team has done just about everything; fine dining with lots of booze and other typical corporate bonding activities. Encouragingly, the group director really wanted his team to experience cultures and geographies outside of the inner city, eastern suburbs bubble. We jumped at the chance. The half day adventure was a roaring culinary and cultural success which is still talked about today.

While the cultural diversity of clients is probably more balanced than AdLand, a food tour of Sydney’s diverse suburbs can also be an eye-opener, and help clients and agencies understand their customers. It makes an imaginative and interesting change from the usual fine dining and boozing.

As I discovered recently during a Merrylands experience run by Taste Food Tours, a three hour cultural and food tour costs less than a typical three course fine dining experience. Not only do you feel richer for the experience, the walking and talking burned more calories than sitting on plush chairs being looked after by uber cool waiters.

Merrylands was part of the Holroyd Council before it merged recently with Auburn to become Cumberland Council. Just over half of the residents of Holroyd Council spoke a language other than English according to the 2011 Census. The area is home to a sizeable number of migrants from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, China and India. This Taste Food tour was called From Afghanistan to Persia, an evening experience coinciding with Ramadan.

Afghan mantu Merrylands

Afghan Mantu, Bahar Restaurant, Merrylands

Seven stops, seven different food experiences and an opportunity to talk with the hard working, humble owners of these amazing eateries. If you have a sweet tooth, check out Asal Sweet for their Persian cakes and pastries or Shiraz for the alluringly named dessert, rice in rose water and saffron ice cream. Love dumplings? Mantu (above) is a must-try; the skin is thick and firm, inside it’s a mixture of lamb mince, onion and spices. They’re served with a sauce made of yellow split peas, tomato, onion, garlic. Yogurt is also poured over the top. If you love your meat, Kebab Hojat is your stop – the charcoal grill will make your mouth water (below).

Kebab Hojak Merrylands

Kebab Hojat, Merrylands

Photos and videos used are courtesy of noodlies, Sydney food blog. You can read more about Taste’s Afghanistan to Persia food tour at noodlies.

If you’re looking for a different and interesting experience than the usual, pricey fine diner – a cultural food tour might tick all the boxes.

UPDATE: I did Taste Food Tour’s Ramadan Night Markets in Lakemba last night. It was amazing, check out the video below.

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Credit: This amazing Merrylands experience was thanks to Taste Food Tours (they do heaps of tours all over Sydney).

How to engage a multicultural audience through BTL activities?

How to engage a multicultural audience through BTL activities?

Think more than just advertising when you’re planning a multicultural marketing campaign, writes Brenda Leung, IDENTITY’s Insights Manager. 

Below The Line (BTL) activities should be part of an integrated communication strategy, complementing Above The Line (ATL) components whilst being relevant and specific to the multicultural communities drivers. While ATL advertising is important in creating general awareness, a strategic non-media/public relations approach is critical to build credibility, understanding and engagement through positive environment and stakeholder participation.

An effective BTL campaign should be able to create a pull by identifying core drivers to create interest and drive urgency amongst the target audiences, encouraging action amongst the communities.

Why do BTL activities work well for CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) audiences?

When we understand the characteristics of CALD values, we will see the opportunities.

Diwali Federation Square

Diwali, Federation Square Melbourne. Image credit Indian Link

Collectivism is a predominant basic cultural element amongst many CALD communities. They value the importance of cohesion within social groups. Goals are more possibly achieved through collaborative efforts through participation from a group of people rather than individual. Understanding this mindset of “partnership” and “companionship” amongst CALD communities, group activities that involves group participation can be more effective.

Family orientated and communal group of people, especially the Asian and Middle East communities, tend to settle in suburbs that are highly populated with the people from their community, forming segregated communities. This provides location advantages in implementing local area engagement such as community/cultural events which are always taken as a chance to socialise with someone who shares the same cultural backgrounds.

Tapping into these local events is a key tactic to engage within the comforts of their environment. Taking ‘stall’ and sponsorship options at these festivals enables more effective engagement across a higher number of CALD community attendants. Some festivals attract over 100,000 people.

The presence at these local community/cultural events can be used to not only provide an official ‘information source’ of brands at grass root level, but also build awareness on ground and further drive responsiveness by engaging the target audience.

SBS Migrant Map

Credit: Where Australia’s immigrants were born, SBS

Other support tactics include multilingual letter box drop in local areas with large population size of target communities. CALD grocery stores also play a major role in information dissemination to large numbers of people. These stores frequently have bulletin boards where bi-lingual posters for local community residents are posted. Bi-lingual flyers are made available at the check-out counters for store visitors to pick up, or to be put in the shopping bags.

Community/Religious leaders and professionals are highly regarded by the CALD communities, who initiate engagement with new schemes, products and services, playing an important role during their process of decision making.

Influencer engagement can be done by identifying the key spokespeople from the community and engaging them to support key messages, providing a solid basis in building the credibility. Their presence at interviews and local events can provide the local and in-community face of the campaign to engage with the public.

The CALD audience are closely-knit groups of people, in conjunction with the ease and comfort factor in dealing with people within their network. Members in personal, community, religious or social groups are regarded as one of the most reliable sources of information. We want to get the target communities to engage with the campaign through creating greater understanding and awareness, subsequently it helps create a multiplier effect through word of mouth with friends and family.

There is visible dependency on own community media as a core information tool amongst the CALD communities, which should be leveraged. This kind of media outreach activities, such as media release and live reads, can significantly impact the success of changes in awareness and attitudes as the ethnic media are credible and trusted information sources.

CALD communities are passionate, and non-advertising tactics can facilitate an emotional connection with your campaign.

NITV and IPG Mediabrands Announce Unique Indigenous Partnership

NITV and IPG Mediabrands Announce Unique Indigenous Partnership

Justified criticism about the lack of diversity is good. We think providing positive solutions is better. 

Rightly, the lack of diversity in the Australian media and advertising industry have been pointed out by organisations and individuals; not enough diversity on our screens, in our TV commercials and in the staff that creative and media agencies hire. For decades, multicultural marketing agencies have highlighted the benefits of multicultural marketing. The industry has long argued that advertisers should invest more advertising budget to multicultural or “ethnic” marketing.

NITV IPG Mediabrands Partnership

L-R: Wei Ng (IDENTITY Communications), Mark Ella (NITV), Danny Bass (IPG Mediabrands), Glenn Hamilton (NITV), Thang Ngo (IDENTITY Communications).

IDENTITY Communications are hugely proud to lead an IPG Mediabrands-wide initiative aimed at increasing investment in Indigenous media as well as improving employment opportunities Indigenous Australians. The NITV and IPG Mediabrands partnership announced this week is a first in Australia. The partnership is supported and sponsored by Danny Bass, IPG Mediabrands CEO.

We’re hugely proud to play a role that takes the debate beyond debate and criticism, to providing one solution to this complex issue. Details of the Indigenous partnership between NITV and IPG Mediabrands are contained in the media release below.

IDENTITY will be announcing other Australian first multicultural marketing initiatives in coming months.



May 23, 2017: Australia’s National Indigenous Television network (NITV) and IPG Mediabrands have announced a unique partnership to raise awareness of the potential of Indigenous audiences within IPG Mediabrands’ client base. The partnership aims to increase investment from Mediabrands on NITV to help support more production of Indigenous content on the network.

NITV is a free-to-air channel led by and focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The channel commissions or acquires content primarily from the Indigenous production sector. It was founded in 2007, then launched as part of SBS in 2012 and currently reaches more than two million unique viewers a month. It is available in 95% of Australian homes.

The agreement is a first in Australia. NITV will help Mediabrands businesses develop a greater understanding of Indigenous communities and help develop insights, strategies and connections for client teams. Mediabrands will help NITV unlock greater investment into Indigenous media and create opportunities for improved representation across the marketing industry.

NITV Executive, Mark Ella said, “Australia’s Indigenous audience are sometimes stereotyped by advertisers who overlook the rich diversity of our people. This partnership will help us to understand what clients are looking for and bring the potential of our audiences to Mediabrands’ clients in an authentic way. It is a true partnership that offers both sides unique benefits.”

Danny Bass, CEO of IPG Mediabrands Australia, said there was both a need and a responsibility for the Media Industry to be far more inclusive of Indigenous people and minorities. “Our industry is a major contributor to helping shape the culture of Australia and that culture has been shaped in great part by our Indigenous People. The partnership with NITV is a two-way lens for brands and Indigenous people to influence each other in the digital world. More broadly, Mediabrands is fully committed to providing roles for Indigenous people within our business.”

At IPG Mediabrands the partnership with NITV will be led by the group’s multicultural division, IDENTITYCommunications. Thang Ngo, Managing Director of IDENTITY Communications, said, “Diversity and representation are topical issues in the industry. This partnership moves beyond debate and criticism to solutions that aim to make a tangible difference.”

The partnership allows for joint internship programs and NITV support in development of an IPG Mediabrands Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

The partnership is effective immediately.


5 trends that will change multicultural marketing in Australia forever

5 trends that will change multicultural marketing in Australia forever

IDENTITY Communications are predicting the multicultural marketing industry in Australia will change dramatically in 2017.  Here’s why.

We’re not talking about terminology and semantics which have changed over time such as NESB (non-English speaking background) and LOTE (languages other than English) being replaced by CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse), refugee with asylum seeker, ethnic marketing with multicultural marketing

Beyond descriptors, we believe there are five key trends in multicultural marketing that will change the industry forever. And it will happen in 2017.

Multicultural Marketing

1. Census 2016
The multicultural industry relies on Census data to quantify the size of the opportunity. Size and English language proficiency are two data points referenced frequently by multicultural agencies. While Census 2016 isn’t in itself a trend – it’s the trend in the data that will make a big splash.

We predict when the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) releases the full 2016 Census data on 27 June, the multicultural opportunity will be more compelling than ever before. We’re predicting it will show the Chinese speaking community in Australia will pass 1 million people for the first time and that Mandarin, followed by Cantonese, will be the two most spoken languages in Australia (other than English). Our modelling suggests Australia’s population will increase by 11% between the 2011 and 2016 Censuses, however, the China-born population will increase by 90% during the same period.

2. Data, Insights & Strategy
While Census 2016 will help multicultural marketing agencies get in front of the client, the general lack of CALD data and insights to inform strategy will continue to be a major set-back. Roy Morgan, with relatively small migrant sample sizes, is of limited help. There are still no independent media consumption data sources for in-language print, radio and TV (most print publications are not audited) and consumer insight research is severely lacking for CALD audiences.

Similarly, it’s not enough to respond to a client brief with a media schedule. Those days are over. Clients expect data, insights and strategic thinking to inform the agency’s recommendations.

Multicultural marketing is more than translation and agencies that invest in data, insights and build up their strategic offering will gain a significant competitive advantage.

3. Collaboration & Consolidation
Multicultural agencies have tended to work independently of ‘mainstream’ media and creative agencies. That’s another agency in addition to media, creative, digital, PR, social and search agencies for a time-poor client to manage. There’s been a trend back to the full service agency model, and we believe it will impact the multicultural marketing sector. Multicultural agencies that understand how mainstream agencies work and can collaborate seamlessly, will reap the rewards. Similarly multicultural agencies that are part of a larger mainstream marketing communications group will benefit by being a part of that group’s comprehensive offering.

4. Shift from Traditional Media
The shift from in-language traditional media to digital, social and mobile is on. It’s no longer enough to spend the bulk of a client’s budget on ethnic print or radio channels. And increasingly, it’s not enough to recommend a couple of Facebook and WeChat posts as add-on. Programmatic, data, retargeting, building ‘look alike’ audiences, community management, influencer marketing, search and SEO are expertise that will distinguish successful multicultural marketing agencies from the also-rans.

5. Multicultural is dated?
Just as multicultural replaced ethnic, CALD replaced NESB, there’s an argument that multicultural is an out-dated concept. Supporters of the change argue that multicultural often refers to different ethnic backgrounds, but if we’re talking about embracing diversity what about sexual orientation, indigenous, age, ability, etc. In California, Latinos have outnumbered Whites since 2015 – what’s multicultural and what’s mainstream in this context? Rather than differentiating with multicultural, should we not look at cultural marketing that recognises similarities and differences? Some say polyculturalism should replace multiculturalism.

Whatever term we’ll end up using in the future, the undeniable truth is that cultural diversity is here to stay and clients are looking to their agencies for effective strategies to reach this valuable and growing market.

That’s our view. Do you agree? Are there any other trends in multicultural marketing that you’ve picked up? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sydney’s Best Pho

Sydney’s Best Pho

We work hard and smart at IDENTITY multicultural marketing agency, but there’s always time for food! IDENTITY’s Thang Ngo writes about the best pho in Sydney for Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food.

Sydney loves a food trend. We adore tucking into the must-eat dish, snack or ingredient of the moment. But there are some food addictions that span years, even decades, that never find themselves at the bottom of the thumbs-down list. They are part of the dining pulse of this town. One of these addictions is pho.


Pho is up there with the great noodle soups of the world, says Merivale chef Dan Hong. “The spices within the clean and clear broth have almost healing properties, and it makes you feel great when eating it.”

Hong says pho can be slurped any time. One of his earliest memories was of his mother, Angie Hong, making “a large batch, and we would eat it for breakfast or dinner for at least the next two days until it was gone”. He adds: “It’s also the perfect hangover cure.”

The complex broth is derived from boiling beef bones for hours. The meat topping is almost always beef – pho tai (uncooked thin slices of beef), pho nam (cooked beef), pho bo vien (beef balls).

There are other varieties. Pho ga (chicken) is tolerated, but purists will grimace at pho do bien (seafood) and pho chay (vegetarian).

With so many ingredients and regional differences, each chef has their own, closely guarded recipe. Sweet, star anise-perfumed, fish sauce-rich, ginger-spiced – each bowl is as distinct as the hands that create it.

Pho has a somewhat murky history, though most agree it originated in the north of Vietnam in the 1880s during the French colonisation. The Chinese living in the north contributed the rice noodle component of the soup, while the French introduced beef, a previously extravagant meat, to this street food bowl.

Chef Luke Nguyen had his first pho at about four years of age; his parents used it to teach him how to use chopsticks. Researching for his latest TV series, Luke Nguyen’s France, he concluded that pho actually has it origins in France. According to Nguyen, pho bears similarities to the French classic pot-au-feu in name and cooking method. “The essential cooking technique of both dishes is the same – to extract all the natural sweet flavours of the beef bones, meat and vegetables to get a very clean, aromatic, tasty broth.”

Sydney's Best Pho

In 1954, when Vietnam was split into communist north and democratic south, those who migrated south to avoid communism helped spread the love of pho. Pho bac (northern pho) reflects the austere, considered character of that region, while pho nam (southern pho) embodies the brashness of the easy-going south.

“Northern pho tends towards subtle, light, mild, clean flavours; the south tends towards a sweeter yet sharper flavour from exotic fresh herbs, aromatic spices with Indian, Cambodian and Thai influences,” Nguyen says.

With the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, pho spread, thanks to Vietnamese refugees, to the West, where the pho flavour evolved further. Many claim pho in Australia is tastier thanks to better-quality beef that gives the broth a bigger, richer punch.

Whether north, south or Aussie, watch out ramen, laksa and handmade noodles – pho is coming for you.

Sydney’s best pho

Pho Tau Bay
12/117 John Street, Cabramatta, 9726 4583

Critics and connoisseurs consistently name this tiny noodle house as one of Sydney’s best. Cabramatta’s first pho restaurant began in 1980 as a Sunday pop-up in Thi Nhu Pham’s garage. With an infant son, it was the only way to make money to support her husband and the rest of her children back in Vietnam. Within two years she saved enough capital to open Pho Tau Bay at the current location. Pham’s recipe is a well-guarded secret; no one knows how she gets that amazing depth of flavour or how she balances sweet, saltiness and Asian spices so perfectly.

Pho An
29 Greenfield Parade, Bankstown, 9796 7826

Dan Hong’s favourite pho, this institution attracts punters from all over Sydney. Enter this vast, double-fronted restaurant and you’ll be greeted by the aroma of basil leaves and the sound of happy, slurping diners.

Pho An is renowned for its seductive, aromatic broth with star anise, clove and Chinese cardamom that many have unsuccessfully tried to emulate.

308 Illawarra Road, Marrickville, 9559 5078

Previously Pho Bac Hai Duong, but shortened to PHD after a bold makeover. Hien Le is front of house, while wife Lanh Nguyen cooks up a storm in the kitchen. The owners come from Hue, so while they serve pho nam (southern-style), it has a central Vietnam twist. This is one of the sweetest pho in Sydney, with generous use of beef and chicken bones, onions, ginger and fried garlic. It’s finished with cracked pepper – another marked difference.

Bo 7 Mon Thanh Tam
Level 3, Market City, 8-9 Hay Street, Haymarket, 8252 7815

Don’t be fooled by its location; one of the best pho stops in Sydney’s CBD is in a food court. For two decades, owner Phuoc Hoang has run restaurants all over Sydney, including Darlinghurst, Bankstown and Canley Heights. These days he’s in a food court to escape the punishing restaurant hours. It’s a punchy umami-rich broth that makes the nearby competitors taste watered-down. At $9 a bowl, the food court price is a sweet bonus.

Cafe Buon Cibo
33 Herbert Street, St Leonards (no phone)

A sweeping generalisation, but the further away from the Vietnamese hubs of Cabramatta, Bankstown and Marrickville, the harder it is to find decent pho. This cafe-cum-pho eatery on the ground floor of an office block in St Leonards is a redolent exception. The owners, Allan Thai and his mother, cook the broth overnight in their home in Cabramatta and drive the 70-litre pho pot to the north shore each weekday.

Each bowl is served with pride, piping-hot, including all the condiments you’d expect from a Cabramatta restaurant.

Pho Huong Xua
Shop 4, 219 Canley Vale Road, Canley Heights, 8764 4117

One of a few places in Sydney for subtle, elegant pho bac (northern-style). While the broth is clean, the beef is lightly stir-fried with fish sauce and garlic.

They’re also renowned for Australia’s biggest pho bowl, which weighs in at 1.5 kilograms, with equal parts of noodles, beef and soup. At $17 it’s also the best-value bowl in town (but eat it all in 11 minutes and it’s free!).

Great Aunty Three
115 Enmore Road, Enmore, 9519 2886

Just off King Street, look for the red Vespa, bright plastic stools and long queues. This is hipster pho with a solid pedigree – the recipe is passed on from owner Michael Le’s maternal grandmother. It’s a fragrant bowl, thanks to basil and star anise. While you’re there, go the whole hog and order a gourmet banh mi, fresh roll and a glass of Vietnamese drip coffee.

Hai Au
48 Canley Vale Road, Canley Vale, 9724 9156

This place is one of the most popular restaurants for the local Vietnamese community, renowned for in-your-face, authentic home-style Viet.

And if chicken is your thing, then pho ga at Hai Au is the best in town. It is a complex broth, umami-rich and highly spiced with basil, chopped coriander, spring onion and fried garlic, though it is the sliced Spanish onions that give the bowl a distinctive sweetness.

Duy Linh (now closed)
Shop 10, 117 John Street (Enter via Hill Street), Cabramatta, 9727 9800

Vegans rejoice – here’s is a pho for you. It’s a sweet broth with a surprisingly firm punch. Mercifully, there’s no mock-beef, though two types of mushrooms add earthy heartiness. Basil, coriander and ginger help to evoke the pho feel.

Pho Pasteur
295 Chapel Road, Bankstown, 9790 2900; 709 George Street, Sydney, 9212 5622; 137 Church Street, Parramatta, 9635 0782; Westpoint Shopping Centre, Patrick Street, Blacktown, 9676 1333.

Pasteur was the first to take pho outside the Vietnamese hubs, spreading the love to Haymarket, Parramatta and Blacktown. It’s an accessible broth, hedging its bet – neither too sweet nor too salty.

How to eat Pho

A steaming bowl of pho at your table is just the start – what you add to it will really make the experience. After all, no two bowls are alike.

Dunk: Pho tai (raw beef) arrives with thinly sliced red beef on top of your bowl. Grab your chopsticks and immediately submerge into the piping-hot broth to cook. This applies to pho nam (cooked beef) or other meats such as pho ga (chicken), to bring your meat to the same temperature as your pho bowl.

Sides: That plate of side mints can really help to lift your bowl.

Fresh is best: You may be offered lightly blanched bean sprouts. This practice originates from Vietnam. In Australia, pick fresh sprouts for a crispier, more lively texture. You get a lot of sprouts on the plate, but one handful is usually enough – too much will prematurely cool the broth.

Rip it: Asian basil is another standard side (flee out of there if it’s not). You should get a few stems. Only use the leaves; discard the wiry stems. Tear the basil leaves in two before dropping into your bowl to release the flavour into the broth. This one tip can make a world of difference.

Zest: Lemon should be squeezed to taste – usually no more than one slice per bowl.

Condiments: That cluster of inscrutable condiments taking up valuable room on your table should be loved, not loathed:

F is good: Sometimes sauces are transferred to generic glass containers, but there’s a simple guide. Usually, there are two containers with dark, runny sauces; the one marked with a handwritten “F” is fish sauce (add half a tablespoon for extra saltiness), the one marked with “S” is soy (to be used for other dishes – avoid if you’re having pho).

Squeeze it: The black paste in the squeeze container is hoisin. Some add it to their bowl instead of fish sauce, but most squeeze onto one side of a small side dish to dip your meat in. The red squeeze container is chilli sauce, to be added to the other half of the dipping dish for a yin-yang look.

Spice it up: Finally, if your side dish doesn’t come with chilli, look for a small aluminium sugar container – it usually contains freshly sliced chilli. Three slices should warm you up, six if you’re brave.

Free tea: Unlike some Chinatown restaurants, bottomless tea is free. The waiter usually brings enough tea cups for your table. Help yourself to hot oolong from the large thermos on your table.

Sydney’s Best Pho by Thang Ngo was originally published as a cover story for Good Food, photo courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food. Photo credit Edwina Pickles.

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