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Diversity Works: Filipino-Australian Carmen Garcia champions Filipino communities in Australia

Carmen Garcia is the first Australia-born Filipina Appointed as the Honorary Philippine Consul to South Australia.

Raised by her Cebuana mother and grandparents in Adelaide, South Australia (SA), Carmen was immersed in community life at a young age. They opened their family home to host the Sto Niño de Cebu Fiesta in their backyard back in 1987 and 1988. She proudly speaks Visayan fluently and although born and raised in Australia, her values and experiences were influenced by Filipinos’ inherent values – an immense generosity and sense of community spirit.

Carmen recalls a key moment growing up, when she was sent to school with buwad (stinky dried fish) and rice – opening her lunch box, the unique aromatics drew the attention of her classmates, who had fritz and sauce sandwiches. She remembers feeling embarrassed and different and came home to tell her lola (grandmother) what had happened. Her grandmother’s response was “let’s show the class how delicious our food is”, and together Carmen and lola cooked up a feast of pansit, spring rolls, chicken adobo and fried rice. The next day Carmen brought the food to share with the class and the teacher even let her speak about the Philippines. All agreed the food was delicious and they were excited to learn more about Philippine culture.

This was the beginning of her life’s mission to be an advocate for multiculturalism. Bringing the spirit of bayanihan from her Filipino heritage, Carmen started as a volunteer in the community from the age of 16 tutoring Filipino students, to later establishing the organisation Filipino Youth SA, and taking on other leadership roles in the community including the Chair of Filipina SA. She has led several fundraising initiatives to support disaster relief in the Philippines, with a priority focus on women and children, and turned her passion for community into a profession.

“I didn’t know at the time, but my Filipino culture, values and beliefs have really shaped who I am today. Advocating and supporting our Filipino community has led to a career where I can help everyone embrace diversity and recognise the role multiculturalism contributes to Australia’s economic and social prosperity,” said Carmen.

Carmen’s leadership and tenacity to give a voice to Filipinos, especially young people was recognised in 2014 when she won the Young Achiever Award in South Australia for her Community Service and was later appointed as the first Filipina to the Federal Government’s Australian Multicultural Advisory Council to the Minister among many others.

She was also recognised in 2016 as the only Australian-Filipina in the Top 100 Most Influential Global Filipina Women Award in the category of ‘Behind the Scenes Leader’ and has won the overall South Australian Filipino Achiever of the Year, awarded by Filipino Settlement Coordinating Council of SA, in 2014 and 2018.

Carmen is now the founder and CEO of Community Corporate, a purpose driven social enterprise that leads in diversity and inclusion strategies and has developed a national award-winning employment program for refugees and migrants known as DiversityWorks®. Nationally, partnering with iconic employers and businesses in retail, the care sector, building and construction, hospitality, business administration, agriculture and community services, her company has supported over 1000 jobseekers secure work in Australia.

In 2018, InDaily awarded her as one of the inaugural 40 Under 40 Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs in the state and Carmen went on to win one of only four individual awards for State Contribution. Her company is still new, but in 2020 Community Corporate was listed as one of SA’s Fast Mover companies and she went on to win individual awards with an Australia Day Commendation Award for Inspiring SA Women, and was also awarded the Governor’s Multicultural Award for Individual Outstanding Achievement.

Her expertise and specialisation in diversity employment and workforce strategy has given her the title from her peers as the Diversity and Inclusion Warrior. This social entrepreneur has built a for purpose company that designs and activates innovative solutions that make a profound economic and social impact, and she has taken her national influence to advance the Filipino community in Australia as the immediate past President of FILCCA, the peak body for some 300,000 Filipinos in Australia – the fifth largest ethnic community. Now as the Honorary Philippine Consul of SA, she is driven to change the narrative of Filipinos and provide a platform to showcase our Filipino community who not only make an immense social contribution but recognise the role and contributions made as economic drivers in business and entrepreneurialism that have helped make Australia great.

In 2022, Carmen Garcia was appointed as Philippine Honorary Consul to South Australia by H.E. Ma. Hellen B. De La Vega, Philippine Ambassador to Australia. As Honorary Consul, she is responsible for promoting and protecting the interests of the Philippines in South Australia, including protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of Filipino citizens in SA.

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