By Reyvi Mariñas
Amidst drum beats, the delegates entered the hallway holding their banners. They introduced their organisations with joyous and militant chants.
With around 60 delegates from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia and guests from Migrante International in thePhilippines, Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants in Hong Kong and Migrante in New Zealand, Migrante-Australia launched its first national assembly on 12 June 2010 at Chapel by the Sea, Bondi, New South Wales.
Councillor Dominique Wy Kanak, an Aboriginal Elder and a Councillor for Waverly Council, welcomed the delegates and acknowledged the indigenous owners of the land. He cried: “Land Rights Now!” symbolising the aboriginal struggle on their land. He also gave a short talk on the history of indigenous struggle in Australia and indigenous history locally.
Reverend Pastor John Queripel of Chapel by the Sea also welcomed all the delegates and bid the assembly success.
Afterwards, Mr Gary Martinez, the Chairperson of Migrante International, delivered the keynote address. He discussed the worsening conditions of Filipino migrants, the impact of the global financial crisis on Filipinos abroad, and the role of migrant Filipinos in Australia. But he also mentioned about the growing movement of Filipino migrant workers in major destination countries and the establishment of the Internationakl Migrants Alliance.
He then posed a question to the audience regarding the newly elected president Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III: Will there be substantial changes under the new government of Noynoy Aquino?
“It is quite clear that the Aquino regime will not bring about real change in our country by instituting genuine agrarian reform and national industrialisation which can generate real employment. It will not qualitatively change the semicolonial and semifeudal conditions of the Philippines,” he said.
He finally urged the delegates to let the Filipino community feel Migrante-Australia’s presence and “to be creative in bringing them into the fold of the progressive movement of overseas Filipinos under the flag of Migrante-Australia.”
The keynote address was followed by workshops commenting on the draft General Program of Action (GPOA). The participants suggested concrete demands and resolutions as well as future campaigns of the alliance.
One pressing issue was the situation of Filipino migrants and temporary workers in Australia and the erosion of their rights amidst anti-migrant policies of both the Australian and Philippine governments.
Another important issue raised was the continuing human rights situation in the Philippines, and related issues including Australian military aid to the Philippines and the possible prosecution of the then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for her crimes committed against the Filipino people.
Mr Jun Tellez, member of the Global Council of Migrante International, gave a short talk on the importance of leadership principles and practices.
In the afternoon, other workshops were held finalising the alliance’s constitution, followed by a solidarity cultural presentation in the evening. As different organisations preformed, it heightened the atmosphere of solidarity and camaraderie of the delegates.
On the second day, the delegates ratified the alliance’s constitution and also finalised the alliance’s GPOA to provide a roadmap of what the alliance wish to achieve in the next three years.
Several resolutions were passed and different committees were formed including research/education, campaign, solidarity and finance. These committees will focus on different areas of the alliance’s work as agreed in the GPOA.
To lead the alliance, members of the Executive Committee were elected at large by the voting delegates.
Elected members of the Executive Committee are : George Kotsakis of Migrante Melbourne as Chairperson; Mario Royeca of Lingap Migrante as Deputy Chairperson, Onofre ‘Bong’ Andres of Lingap Migrante as Secretary General, Reyvi Mariñas of Migrante Melbourne as Deputy Secretary General; and Stephanie Rabusa of Migrante Melbourne as Treasurer.
The formation of Migrante-Australia marked a remarkable episode in the movement of progressive Filipino migrants and workers in Australia.
It was a timely effort to forge a stronger and higher unity in the midst of imperialist globalisation which aggravates the abuse and exploitation of Filipino migrants in Australia.
Indeed, Migrante-Australia will have ‘one voice’ to “unite and advance the rights of migrants in Australia”. #