Philippine Embassy, Canberra
1 Moonah Place, Yarralumla, ACT 2600
www.philembassy.org.au *Tel. No. 02-6273-2535*
Ambassador De La Vega celebrates NAIDOC Week with Manilamen descendants in Broome, WA
6 July 2023, BROOME – Philippine Ambassador to Australia Ma. Hellen B. De La Vega celebrated National Aborigines’ and Islanders’ Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week in Broome with Manilamen descendants. Manilamen were the first Filipinos who arrived in northern Australia in the 19th century and worked as pearl divers. Some of them married indigenous Australians and their descendants met the Ambassador during her visit to Broome on 4 July 2023.
The Ambassador and some of the descendants visited Sisters of St John of God Heritage Centre where they learned of the significant contributions of Manilamen in building the community, growing the pearl and related industries and enriching the diversity and multicultural fabric of Australia. The Manilamen were highly instrumental in the formation of the Catholic faith in the Kimberley region. Sr. Pat Rhatigan, curator and researcher, welcomed the delegation and emphasized the importance of “keeping the information alive” and sharing these accounts to future generations.
Ambassador De La Vega hosted a workshop with the descendants where they exchanged stories on the arrival and family lives of Manilamen. Mr. Kevin Puertollano, descendant of Manilaman Thomas Puertollano from Marinduque and a Yawuru Elder, has been leading efforts in Broome to document and honor the legacy of Manilamen. Broome Councillor Elsta Foy, descendant of Manilaman Severo Corpus, shared photos and documents on her family’s history.
The story of Manilamen demonstrates the development of a multicultural and diverse Australian society. It also highlights the shared indigenous heritage and long-standing maritime links of the Philippines and Australia. Dr. Deborah Ruiz-Wall, author of “Re-imagining Australia: Voices of Indigenous Australians of Filipino descent,” joined the Ambassador in the trip.
The Ambassador also met the Filipino community in a gathering jointly organized by the Manilamen descendants and the new settlers or the Filipino workers and their families who arrived in Broome in the last thirty years. During the visit, Ambassador De La Vega met Shire President Councillor Desiree Male who spoke highly of the Filipino community. – END