Pinoy veterinarian helps integrate Filipino migrants into Aussie society

    Bright and gifted with optimism that defined the zeitgeist of the 1960s, Dr. Roberto C. Garcia used to call the Philippines home.

    Now, 5,817 kilometers away from the Philippines, he and his family have found a home away from home in Queensland, Australia.

    He is a community leader helping Filipino migrants seeking the good fortune they could not find in their homeland.

    “The number varies from time to time but at present there are 56,000 Filipinos here. In our own little way we help  them get integrated into the mainstream society,” Garcia said.

    Garcia, who uprooted his family from the Dimasalang-Blumentritt residential enclave in the 1980s, is currently the president of the Filipino Australian Business, Industry and Communities Council of Queensland, Incorporated.

    He and other volunteers help fellow Filipinos access services and acquire the capability to develop and build communities.

    “We also help them in seeking business opportunities by holding seminars. We also help them get employed by sourcing out or give them tips where they could get employment,” he said.

    His role  is critical because it is not easy for migrants to settle Down Under, just like anywhere else in a foreign land.

    Because many people have natural tendency to take advantage of others, new migrants are often exploited by employers.

   Garcia mentioned as example a Filipino welder in Brisbane who was made to work long hours because he did not know Australia’s labor policies.

   “Being new in the country, he was not yet a permanent residence. He had to spend 2-3 years before a company could sponsor him to become a permanent resident,” Garcia said.

    His group also helps Filipinos holding Philippine passports get access to the Philippine Embassy, which provides information on the settlement of Filipino migrants and how to negotiate in Australia.

    The group also helps in domestic violence cases, which happens when a couple has a significant age gap or because of different cultures.

    “Misunderstanding or disagreements that result in quarrels are bound to happen. Normally, such cases are referred to us or we learn about these by word of mouth,” Garcia said.

    By the looks of it, Garcia does not regret having relocated to another country and make it his home away from where he and his family came, the Philippines. 

    But how did he and family end up in Australia?

    Garcia attended  the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Veterinary Medicine (1969-1977) and worked for a consultancy firm after graduation. 

By a stroke of good luck, he and his colleagues attended an international convention in Adelaide in the early 1980s on the invitation of one of the biggest piggery and agricultural firms in Queensland. They were  invited after the convention to relocate to the continent.

    And the rest, as they say, is history.

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