Tribute to Perlita Swinbank

Speech in the ACT Legislative Assembly

7 June 2016

I rise this afternoon to speak about a remarkable Canberran, the late Perlita Swinbank. Perlita was a woman of substance. Perlita served more than four terms in the Filipino Communities Council of Australia, FILCCA. She was the state representative as FCCACT president for two terms, for a total of four years, and was FILCCA’s vice president internal from 2012 to 2014 and FILCCA’s vice president external from 2014 to 2016.

Sadly, Perlita died on 1 May from pancreatic cancer. Her funeral was held on 9 May at St Peter Chanel’s Catholic church in Yarralumla and was extremely well attended by family and friends as well as by the Philippines ambassador to Australia; the Philippines consul-general; the President of the Filipino Communities Council of Australia, Ms Aida Garcia, from Adelaide; and the New South Wales representative, Ms Ethel Singzon, from Sydney.

Eulogies were given by Ms Cecilia Flores, president of FCCACT, and by Estela White, who had been a friend of Perlita since they both arrived in Canberra almost 39 years ago. Cecilia Flores spoke personally about Perlita’s influence as her mentor, as well as about Perlita’s service to her community. She noted that during Perlita’s two terms as FCCACT president she actively shaped and formed a cohesive group of 11 associations in the territory.

Perlita made an outstanding contribution to Pasko sa Canberra and other Filipino community and multicultural events which helped establish solidarity and goodwill among associations, and championed the cause of indigent citizens in the Philippines. At the Filipino national conference held Perth in 2012, Perlita received a leadership award. And at the conference in 2014 she was the leadership awards committee manager.

Estela White told the gathering that Perlita was born to a loving and close family in the Philippines in 1950, was the eldest of five siblings and was the only daughter. Perlita and her husband, Chris, supported a number of charities, including Friends of Samar, which was established by Perlita to provide scholarships to students from her home island of Samar. She also raised funds to improve the village of Buluan where her mother’s family were from. Perlita organised an annual fiesta in Buluan, and she returned to Samar each October to celebrate her birthday, to attend the fiesta and to raise more funds for Samar. Some of the community improvements from Perlita’s fundraising included a new basketball court and amenities blocks for the school.

As well being a dedicated leader of her community, Perlita was a kind, loving, generous and caring person and a very loyal friend. I would like to thank Cecilia and Estela for their moving tributes to Perlita. As well, I would like to offer my own condolences to Perlita’s husband, Chris, as well as to her family. Chris also spoke in a very moving way about their relationship, as did her children. Perlita was mother of James and Adrianna; stepmother of Matthew, Andrew and Meredith; grandmother of baby Beatrix;mother-in-law of Taylor and Rhonda; sister of Marlon and Rolando; and the aunt of many nieces and nephews. She will be greatly missed by her family here and in the Philippines and by her many friends, particularly the Filipino community in the territory.