The Welcome Wall is one of the museum’s most important and visible tributes to Australia's migration heritage. The 81 bronze panels that are joined together and run down the northern promenade of the museum, facing Pyrmont Bay has space for over 30,000 names. It was built to honour the people who migrated from different parts of the world to settle in Australia. The stunning monument is 100 metres long, 2.8 metres tall.
My introduction to the Welcome Wall was about three years ago when I attended the unveiling of the inscription for the grandparents of my husband John. His grandparents originated from England. It was a very hot day with the event being held outdoor and yet the audience happily stayed to listen to the amazing stories of a few migrants whose names were added to the Wall. The stories of the people whose names were inscribed on the Wall are held on the Museum's website.
I made the decision then to also join to give back in a small way to the country that has adopted me and to share my story.
Fast forward to March 21, 2021
On this day, my name, Violeta Garcia-Calvert, was among 846 names added on the Welcome Wall at the Maritime National Museum. The unveiling event was postponed from January 2021 due to COVID restrictions. It was held inside the museum due to the heavy rain and flooding at the time.
It was lovely to have my husband John, our son Tim and wife Stephanie, my sisters in law Judy, Lorraine and Wendy, a good friend Annalyn Violata, her husband Sam and their son Seeyan, and Edilen Magtibay Dearden and husband Leigh were able to attend this event and made it more memorable for me. Like Annalyn, Edinel works for SBS Filipino so it was not unexpected that she did an interview of me later in the morning. :)
Before the formalities and speeches, the audience was entertained by Aurora Choralis, which is a newly formed chamber choir in Sydney. The group’s rich and crystalline sound mesmerised all who forgot the not-so-nice weather outside the venue. The tonal identity reflected great choral traditions of North America and Northern Europe. This combination of sounds, along with an amazing combination of early music and vocal jazz establishes the ensemble’s unique sound.
I was very excited as I was one of four speakers to share our stories as migrants to Australia. I got a bit nervous when the host, Alice Matthews from SBS told me that I was first to speak. Then she made feel relaxed when she mentioned that her mother is Filipina.
But before my talk, we had on video message from the Governor General of Australia, His Excellency, General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC. In his talk, the Governor General declared and elevated the status of the Welcome Wall at the Australian National Maritime Museum to become Australia’s National Monument to Migration.
In my talk, I expressed my appreciation of the opportunity to publicly express my gratitude for the chance to migrate to Australia. "I am blessed to have two mothers, so to speak. I cherish the fact that the Philippines is my birth mother and Australia my adoptive mother. And I love them both dearly."
I was humbled to hear the wonderful stories shared by the three other speakers. The speaker after me was Ashak Nathwani who was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2017 for significant service to the Ismaili community in Australia, to tertiary education in the area of sustainable design, and to engineering. He worked as a consulting engineer for 39 years in the property industry, prior to joining the University of Sydney in 2011. He has helped design and build many iconic structures around the world, including the Maritime Museum.
The next speaker was Electra Manikakis who is of Greek heritage. She spoke on behalf of four generations of the Manikakis and Ziros families. Electra, her sister Fotini and cousins Veloudia and Dimitri have collaborated to honour seven family members on the wall.
Then we had Rosemary Kariuki, originally from Nigeria who has been recognised for extraordinary service to migrants, Australia’s Local Hero for 2021. Rosemary nearly had all of us up and dancing had there been no COVID restrictions.
I wish to congratulate and thank the Maritime National Museum for holding a memorable and enjoyable Welcome Wall event. I was also impressed by the professional and caring support I received leading up, during and after the event from Paul McCarthy, Senior Executive, Strategy & External Relations; Adam Sherar, Business Development Manager Commercial Services & Fundraising; Tina Koutsogiannis, Partnerships Manager and the photography and filming crew.
Register for the Welcome Wall
Aside from my small way to express my gratitude to Australia for adopting me, my participation in the Welcome Wall was to honour: my parents, Mariano and Rosalina Garcia who made a lot of sacrifices for us; Iris and Ray Murray, Kiwi-Aussie couple who sponsored me from the Philippines; and Drs Nina and Bert Sucgang, my boss in Manila who introduced me to the Murrays. I also want to share my story with my family, friends - now and the years to come - and anyone who would make time to read it.
I hope many more kababayans would register to be part of the Welcome Wall - either to share their own stories or to honour others in their family who settled here and contributed to Australia's diversity and success as a nation. The donation fee of $500 is tax deductible, too.
Register a name on the Welcome Wall - Australian National Maritime Museum (sea.museum)
By the way, if you are in the area and want to check out the Welcome Wall, my name appears on Panel 83, Column 2 line 19: Violeta Garcia-Calvert.