By Benjie de Ubago
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Filipino Communities Council of Australia (FILCCA). Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner in the planning of the milestone celebrations. FILCCA’s national biennial conference originally scheduled for October 2020 in Adelaide has been rescheduled for 15-17 October 2021. The event will still be held in Adelaide.
Philippine Ambassador to Australia, Ma. Hellen De La Vega congratulated FILCCA on having reached this important milestone.
Although no physical event could be had, FILCCA president, Carmen Garcia extended her gratitude via a video. She thanked all community leaders, elders, volunteers and supporters throughout Australia who have helped lay the foundation for FILCCA and for sustaining it through the years.
“I am proud to lead FILCCA as the national president and to advocate for the needs and concerns of the Filipino Australian community who shaped my values and mission to drive diversity and inclusion today,” said Garcia. “We aim to advance the cause of the Filipino and to celebrate our contribution to the social, economic and cultural prosperity of Australia as the fifth largest ethnic group,” she adds.
Since she was elected at the last FILCCA conference in Perth, Garcia has hit the road running to advocate for the Filipino community in Australia. She focused on housekeeping and implemented policies and procedures to ensure FILCCA was compliant with government regulations.
Then she made headways and established relations with the Federal government officials, the Parliamentary Friendship Group, International Students Association as well as Philippine Embassy and other multicultural groups. “It’s a pity that projects planned for this year have been cancelled or held in abeyance due the health crisis,” Garcia said. She had plans for a Leadership Forum which had to be cancelled this year. “But who knows, we may still be able to hold it next year,” she said.
With prodding from the Philippine Embassy, FILCCA was initiated by Marina Garcia-Ruivivar in Victoria in 1990 and includes representations from the State Councils namely New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, ACT, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania. Previous presidents who served FILCCA include Jess Diaz (NSW), Jing Sosa (VIC), Kate Andres (NSW), Orly Vargas (QLD), Ernesto Demate (VIC), Ricardo de Vera (NSW), Malyn Andres-Chun (NSW), Florence Talbo Parker (TAS), Marisa Vedar (VIC), Aida Garcia (SA) and Dante Maribbay (WA).
FILCCA was awarded the prestigious Presidential Banaag Award in 2002. While State Councils have their own projects and achievements, FILCCA’s role is to elevate the needs and concerns of the Filipino-Australian community on a Federal level.
However, in recent times, some State Councils have been in disarray which have been weakened by infighting. Visions have blurred and directions have been derailed. Questions arise as to the relevance of the Councils in their respective States and of FILCCA in today’s changing times. Garcia emphatically stated that she believes that FILCCA still has a role to play in the Filipino-Australian community.
The leaders need to face the challenges that exist and resolve issues. There is a need for a consistent vision and a clear perspective and identity. It goes without saying that better leaders are needed to face the challenges and iron out the problems. “We need to move coherently as a whole,” said Garcia.
The term of office for FILCCA officers has been extended to next year’s conference. The current officers include: Carmen Garcia, President (SA); Roberto Garcia, Vice President External (QLD); Cecille Wheare, Vice President Internal (VIC); Veronica Pantos, Vice President Youth (WA); Ben-Hur Winter, Secretary (SA); Serna Ladia, Treasurer (NSW); and Cecilia Flores, PRO (ACT).
The FILCCA National Conference has been rescheduled for October 2021 in Adelaide and hopes to continue highlighting the contribution of the Filipino-Australian community to Australia. Additional information and National Conference details are available at the FILCCA website – www.filcca.org.au.