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Community champion Mina Armstrong honoured with OAM

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Alice Nicolas
Alice Nicolas
Alice Gregorio Nicolas is the publisher of The Philippine Times.

Paynesville resident Wilhelmina “Mina” Armstrong has been awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her services to the East Gippsland community. Mina, who emigrated from the Philippines in 1978, has been a tireless advocate for numerous local causes, significantly impacting her community.

“I am very happy for the award. I feel honoured,” Mina told The Philippine Times in an interview. Being a migrant with another culture, Mina has embraced her new home and dedicated herself to making a difference. Her journey began in the 1980s when she founded the Bairnsdale International Women’s Group (BIWG). Recognising the challenges faced by migrant women, Mina organised the group to provide support, education and a sense of community. The BIWG hosted guest speakers, including lawyers and doctors, to educate members about their rights and responsibilities, and to navigate life in Australia.

Mina was also instrumental in establishing an oncology and dialysis unit in Bairnsdale. In 2008, the local community needed $1 million to complete the unit. Mina offered a block of land and coordinated community efforts to build and sell a house, raising $375,000. Her relentless fundraising through events and donations resulted in the unit’s opening in 2011. Her contribution is also evident in education and support for the disabled. After her husband’s sudden death in 1991, she established the Jack Armstrong Memorial Scholarship at East Gippsland TAFE, supporting budding entrepreneurs and business students. Her dedication to Noweyung Limited, a centre for disabled youth, was inspired by her brother Tito’s condition in the Philippines.

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Mina’s philanthropy extends to St Mary’s Catholic Church, where her significant donation helped restore a stained glass rose window. She has also been a consistent donor to the Bairnsdale CFA, especially during the recent bushfires, and she mobilised volunteers to deliver relief to affected residents. Her involvement with Toorak Rotary since 2007 includes various youth education projects, showcasing her commitment to the broader community.

Mina’s achievements have not gone unnoticed. She was also recognised during the 125th Philippine Independence Day Gala Night, receiving a Certificate of Appreciation from the Philippine Consulate General. Her recognition with the Order of Australia Medal during the King’s Birthday on 10 June 2024 is just another testament to her unwavering commitment to her community. Her story is one of resilience, compassion and community spirit.

Despite her significant contributions, Mina remains humble and grateful for the opportunities Australia has provided her and her family. Her efforts have not only improved lives but also fostered a spirit of harmony in East Gippsland. This honour further highlights her enduring impact on the Filipino-Australian community, and cementing her legacy as a local legend.

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