GK australia Programs

GK Australia aims to both support the community development work in the Philippines, as well as develop the template to help marginalised communities in Australia and the region.

How GK Australia will adapt the community development model locally


GK Australia believes that aspects of the GK template may offer a path for marginalised communities in Australia to escape welfare dependence and afflictions such as substance abuse. Such aspects include:

  • An approach to development based upon strengthening values.
  • Empowering communities so they can direct the provision and proper co-ordination of support.
  • Engaging long and short term volunteers to support the community and build confidence within it.
  • Having outside resources matched with active labour contributions from the community, especially the men.
  • Reframing the government’s role from being largely sole director and provider to a true partner working in close collaboration with both the affected community and partners from other sectors.

There is nothing in the model which is new or unique. For those who have been engaged with marginalised communities, it strikes as common sense. Yet, in this country at least, it has never been applied in a consistent, concerted or holistic way.

In other contexts the model can enable people to rise out of poverty and despair. It also ensures that external resources being offered to support a community’s development are used in the most effective and sustainable manner possible.

We are currently working in one community in Dubbo, NSW, and have other groups interested in adapting the GK template to other parts of Australia.

January 14, 2020

The Inside Story
(A Personal Reflection) Gawad Kalinga/ CAFOVI Bushfire Appeal

In the beginning, the bushfires seemed remote as it happened in NSW and SA. But as soon as the fires hit Victoria, it was getting real, scary and brought home the reality that we were not safe. Photos and Videos of affected families and animals; farms and National Parks being reduced to ashes shook everyone’s sense of awareness. “From all the lands on earth we come; we’ll share a dream and sing with one voice – I am, We are Australian”….
As a Director of Gawad Kalinga, I remembered how Australia had donated $1M AUD to the GK Community Foundation to rebuild the towns ravaged by Typhoon Hayaian (Ondoy). I remembered the faces too, of many Australian partners and volunteers who travelled to the Philippines to help build houses; work with the poor; help raise awareness and funds for our efforts to fight poverty and give hope to the poor. I made a personal resolution… it was time to give back.
Concurrently, as I am also the Convenor of the Council of Australian Filipino Australian Associations of VIC (CAFOVI); it is one of our purposes that the Filipino be relevant to mainstream Australians and the multicultural community. Australia needs help and we from all lands who now call it home, must answer to cry of our brothers……for we are one family now.
And so, we raised the Appeal!
The response was massive. I received over 50 messages from people wanting to help do the repacking of donated goods. Our volunteers came in droves 1 hour after I raised the appeal (young, old, students, professionals, sporting clubs and associations). Cash donations also poured in: from people who I have never met; trusted Filipino organisations who help when needed; families who probably gave up their coffee or McDonald’s money for this appeal. To all those who responded to the appeal, you are the true Heroes of the times.
But where are the bushfire victims? How do we bring the donations to them? What do we give them? These were the questions that we had to confront….
So began a long process of elimination and selection. There were many sleepless nights wondering if we can pull this off and the magnitude of responsibility was daunting. I did numerous phone calls, emails, Messenger Chats and text messages to find the best possible answers to those questions. Social Media was a big help but it also became a tool for a semi-crucifixion (at least that’s how I felt). Easily people can misjudge, misconstrue, take things out of context and magnify things against someone – all because of Facebook Posts and comments. I had to ask myself … “Why am I doing this? I’m not being paid to do this! I should just be enjoying my grandchildren!” So I prayed; and I prayed crying – to the Image of the Black Nazarene as last week happened to be the feast of the Black Nazarene. And there, I got my answers. From then, I was even more resolved to do what needed to be done.
Selecting the beneficiaries and the distributing partners was like a process of selecting who to marry. The call of Philippine Times for urgent help for the 21 Filipinos stranded in Mallacoota Island was like an instant answer to my prayer. Filipino Australians needed urgent help. Through several phone conversations with Sally Fenn who took in International Students and families; GK established a $500 revolving fund with the Mallacoota Pharmacy where Sally and others can purchase prescription medicines and other supplies. Mallacoota was cut off from the nearest town of Lakes Entrance so sending supplies was a big problem. Relief goods were brought in by boats and they needed help urgently.
Then from a good friend Walter Villagonzalo who knew a Filipino Pastor near the affected Bushfire region, I was introduced to Pastor Apollo Mijares of the Loch Alive Christian Centre. Their Centre does feeding every Tuesdays and Fridays to Elderly and Indigents in the surrounding towns. When the bushfire happened, Foodbank Victoria and Red Cross used them as pick up and drop off point for relief goods to Mallacoota, Orbost, Sale and neighbouring towns. Loch Sport only has a population of 900 people but it has 1800 houses. Being situated on the Ninety Mile Beach and Lake Victoria, there are many holiday houses and accommodations which attracts tourists in the summer months. This town was very Australian, with a Filipino Pastor and his wife Cynthia who is an Ambulance Officer. It felt like the puzzle fitted and I found my match. While at Loch Sport, we met Captain Dennis Berg, Head of the Firefighters Team in that area. The UNTV Crew who joined our trip interviewed Captain Berg. His group are volunteer firefighters. No wages, no benefits – just pure love of community service. Such are our GK volunteers. Pastor mentioned how hard they have worked with little resources. Some of the donations we carried from the Truck were given to his group and $500 cash from Gawad Kalinga courtesy of our generous donors.
Travelling 4.5 hours is not a big drama when in the company of like-minded friends with shared purpose. It was fun and we were in a mission. We had heaps of donated goods loaded in a 3.5 tonne from our Ravenhall and Hoppers Crossing drop off Centres. Driven by our Sikh friends Deep and his father, the truck service was another donation by our co-Labour Party friend Jasvinder Sidhu. How multicultural is that… all with one voice…. “We are AUSTRALIANS!”
But there was the issue of Bairnsdale. The Director of the Relief Centre and the Premiere said, the Storage is full and they are not accepting donations at this point. In my mind, the question was this: “If the bushfire victims were getting the goods, why is the Storage full? Could it be that there were just so many kind hearted souls?” But I felt something was missing. I wanted to find a trustworthy group to distribute the goods and cash to the victims in Gippsland area. Our distance from the Gippsland area and the government restrictions enforced to reach the bushfire victims proved very difficult. Then one morning, I got a call from Rowena Mills, Leader of the group called PinOz of East Gippsland. I told her of our planned trip to Loch Sport and we agreed to meet in Sale. Our meeting place was McDonalds Sale. The exchanges were made, from our volunteers’ cars to their cars – we loaded the donated goods from our Springvale Drop off centre. CAFOVI also entrusted the cash donations for Rowena’s group to deliver. CAFOVI donated $500 to a Filipina named Analyn (her Bairnsdale farm was burned) and we allocated another $500 in envelopes with $50 each to be distributed to Filipino and Australian families directly affected by the bushfire.
This trip also had a bonus. While we were at McDonalds Sale, a group of about 30 Volunteer Firefighters off to Orbost for some live action came in for a feed at McDonalds. We got so excited to meet them, two of our colleagues offered to pay for everything they ate only to be told McDonalds gave them free food. I’m sure their wallets were relieved. But such is the authenticity of their generous hearts.
The other Bonus was that we were joined by Deputy Consul General Anthony Mandap and the UNTV Crew who willingly obliged to join our company. What we hoped we achieved was for a Philippine Government Official and Philippine Media to see how Filipino Australians contribute to the Australian community. Some of us are dual citizens and we want to make both our countries proud of what we do for community. Secondly, we hope Deputy ConGen Mandap saw how Filipino organisations with shared purpose can pro-actively and peacefully work collaboratively to help our Kababayans. The spirit of “Bayanihan” is still very much alive, without counting the cost or anticipating a reward or recognition.
So what was my take after today’s tiring trip and a weeklong of planning, preparation and arranging logistics?
1) That we got a massive response from young volunteers is an affirmation that when called to serve; our young Filipino Australians are ready, willing and capable of responding to the need of the times;
2) That Gawad Kalinga can be relevant to Australia as it is in the Philippines when called to act for love of service to God and country.
3) A confirmation that the Filipino Community in Victoria is now ready and desiring for a leadership group that would focus more on advocacies and genuine community service – that which CAFOVI is striving to achieve for all.
The work is just beginning. It is hard yet fulfilling; tiring but empowering; frustrating but also exciting. What is important is what is in the heart and that we are only answerable to one — Our Maker!
Signed: Marisa Vedar
May 25, 2016


My wife, Mona, and I are grateful to GK Australia for the unique privilege of being able to listen to the hopes and dreams of well-meaning Australians, especially in making their country greater than what it is already.

We come from a developing country where poverty is very much pronounced, where the more common approaches to the restoration of the dignity of the poor are through programs for decent homes, food on the table, health and education services. It was not surprising that when we first arrived in Dubbo, most people that we met found it difficult to see how our GK experience in addressing poverty can be relevant to the problems of Australian communities in government housing, particularly at the Apollo Estate.

We spent most of our time listening to people. Our visit to the homes of some Apollo families allowed us to listen to some of the stories and concerns regarding the situation of the community. We also listened to some groups and individuals from the larger Dubbo community regarding their thoughts and views on the Apollo situation.

The people we talked to said that problems with alcohol, drugs and crime are prevalent in the community. One even said that his wife is afraid to go to the Apollo Estate because of the criminality in the area. The picture that emerged during our chats was of a culture where human dignity is fast fading. Unfortunately, some of the people from outside the Apollo Estate mistake the bad practices as Aboriginal. We don’t think so.

We talked with Patricia Doolan, Rod Towney, and had long conversations with “Riverbank” Frank Doolan and a few others. Through them, we could sense the desire of Aboriginal people to take more active control of their life-situations and to be respected.  The same desire for a much better kind of life was shared by the Apollo residents that we visited. Using the assessment of GKA volunteer, Andrew Chalk, a lawyer based in Sydney who works with Aboriginal communities, these bad behaviours and practices do not reflect Aboriginal culture but the culture of poverty.

The involvement of the residents in community activities, including social gatherings, is minimal. Some of the residents said that most of them lack self-confidence, which is caused by their lack of education and other people’s lack of confidence in them.

If trust among neighbors has to be strengthened, the relationship with the larger Dubbo community needs serious overhauling. While some Apollo residents are open to the idea of relating to GK volunteers, the difficulty in building friendships also lies in the negative perception that the larger Dubbo community has about the Apollo residents.

Many from within and outside the Apollo community believe that there is so much to hope for. During the community barbecue in December 2015, where the residents were involved in the preparation and management of the activities, many of the Apollo residents participated. The event reflected the desire of the residents to participate in decisions regarding community programs and activities.

The root cause of poverty, whether in a rich or in a developing country, is the same. It is the lack of sincere caring for others, the need for people to make their presence and kindness felt by those who need care. With people like Patricia Doolan, Johanna Leader and her Apollo House teammates, caring for the community has already started. With people like “Riverbank” Frank Doolan, Nicole Edwards, Michael Ferres, Alan Parker, Leah Mckinney, Vic Avila, and the others who committed to become GK volunteers, the healing of whatever brokenness in relationship has already taken root. With people who want to do Gawad Kalinga (give care) and journey together in building lasting friendship, making Dubbo a more united community is already a dream come true.

Butch Ozarraga, GK Area Coordinator, North-eastern Mindanao

May 25, 2016


Can GK work in Australia?
That was one of the first questions that Butch Ozarraga, GK Area Coordinator in North-eastern Mindanao was asked when he and his wife, Mona arrived for a three week stay in Dubbo.

Butch and Mona Ozarraga stayed in Dubbo from March 12 to April 4 this year. Their presence in Dubbo was the direct result of a request by GK Australia to GK Philippines asking for help with our work in Dubbo.

The reason for the question was due to the very different material circumstances that exist between Australia and the Philippines in relation to the poor. As Butch pointed out Australia has a social welfare system that provides a safety net through the provision of payments that enables someone who is out of work to pay for rent, utilities and food, whereas in the Philippines there is no such safety net and poverty is dire.

Before he could answer that question, Butch felt that he and Mona needed to learn more about the community in Dubbo. Through the auspices of GKA’s Nikki Edwards and Riverbank Frank Doolan they were introduced to members of the Apollo Estate, and through Michael Ferres, GKA’s head in Dubbo and Col Bowen, to others in the wider community.

At the end of his three weeks, Butch felt that the situation in the Philippines and Australia despite the material differences were similar if not the same. Poverty created a lack of confidence that was similar in both countries. People living in poverty wanted to be able to have the confidence that would enable them to be part of the wider community. A confidence which would ensure that they were treated the same and blended in, without as one member of the Apollo Estate said being viewed in the same way that fish in a fish bowl are viewed.

Butch said that if you had not experienced poverty or if you had grown up with the sort of unconditional love that he was used to – Butch is the youngest and the only boy in his family, therefore he was loved by his entire family and revelled in that love – you would not understand why someone from a situation of poverty would lack confidence. And why when you asked them to do something like turn up at a job interview and they did not – you would think them lazy or ungrateful.

He gave the example of a volunteer in his community in Butuan City in the Philippines who had a shop and needed three people to work in it. He offered the work to beneficiaries in a GK community. A second volunteer told a beneficiary who lived in the community that he should go to the first volunteer’s shop where he would find a position available for him. When the volunteer visited the next afternoon and asked the man if he had gone to the shop, the man said that he hadn’t. When he was asked, why? The man replied that his thongs were broken.

The volunteer was very angry and could not understand why someone who had been offered a job, whose family did not have food, would not turn up just because he had broken thongs.

Butch asked him to think about how he would feel if had never been respected.

“Think how you would feel if in all your life, people look at you as if you are nothing. And then you are offered a job and still you are nothing. If you had no shoes would you go?”

He said that it is sometimes very difficult for people who have shoes to understand why a poor person may not do something that they think is beneficial for that poor person.

He said: “The only reason that we are different is because of our upbringing and the opportunities that have been made available to us”.

One last thing he said is that: in the Philippines, where a majority of the people are homeless it is very easy to show one’s love in a material way through the building of a house, here in Australia it is going to be much harder to show your love and care given that people already have houses and access to welfare. GKA in Dubbo is going to have to show its love and care through the hand of friendship and journeying with the people in the Apollo Estate over a long period of time.

by Suganthi Singarayar

December 14, 2015


November 16, 2015


The Daily Liberal’s, Charlie Whitely, writes about Tony Meloto’s October meeting with community members in Dubbo. Read more...

November 16, 2015


Dubbo’s Daily Liberal anticipates Tony Meloto’s visit to Dubbo in October.

Read more…

November 10, 2015


August 18, 2015


GK Australia recently funded two homes in the Aloysius GK village in Caloocan City. Read through the powerpoint presentation and learn how much of an impact building homes for those less fortunate can be.

Aloysius GK village

August 15, 2015


Jane Southward from the Law Society of NSW Journal spoke to GKA’s Andrew Chalk about our work in Dubbo. Read more…

August 9, 2015


The Australian Government has given GK a $1 million grant to aid in the rehabilitation of Palo, Leyte in the Philippines where thousands of families were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. The grant will be used to build 250 houses and help create livelihood opportunities for the community.

Late last month the homes have been handed to GK communities affected by typhoon Haiyan. You can read the Media Release here.

June 13, 2015


The team helping in the Apollo Estate in Dubbo, NSW have started to help the community clean up the neighbourhood. The clean up was held on the 12th June and all families living in the community were invited to throw out any extra rubbish they had in their homes. It has not only helped the community clean up their homes but also has started to bring the community together.

It has been such a success that the team have decided to make it a regular monthly activity.

An article by the local newspaper, the Daily Liberal, has an article available on the first clean up day.

April 26, 2015


A glimpse into my days in Gawad Kalinga (GK) communities I work in school leadership positions which involve working with students but without a teaching load. I haven’t regularly taught a class for over ten years. At GK Padre Pio School, I have picked up the chalk once again and it’s been a wonderful learning experience!  I’ve always tried to keep up with changing classroom practice and this teaching opportunity has provided a chance to test some of my ideas and beliefs. These are my learnings so far:

1. Relationships, relationships, relationships Children need to know that I care about them. Full stop! Resources make a huge difference but if my relationships aren’t right then it doesn’t matter what whizz bang lessons I have prepared or what equipment and resources are used, the learning will not be as effective.

2. Stories Everybody has a story. I need not only to hear the student’s story but to respond with compassion. Then my job is to take steps to ensure my words and actions cater to and enhance the student’s story.

3. Teaching is active Teaching is not a passive occupation. It is a dynamic role that requires detailed planning, flexibility, creativity and stamina. The old adage still applies; “A teacher on his/her feet is worth two in the seat.” I need to be actively engaged in learning to model and assist desired behaviours, to observe, provide and monitor,  to guide and facilitate optimal learning and to provide timely feedback.

4. Smaller classes are a blessing The research may not rank class size as a significant factor in learning, however, it’s no surprise that I find it much easier to be truly present and effective when teaching a smaller class. (However, we must take into account the school’s financial situation and first implement factors that have a greater positive impact on student learning.)

5.Shared values are critical Everything I say and do (or don’t say or do) tells the community who I am and what is important to me. When students, staff and families know and share a set of community values there is congruency among all parties. My job is to explain, remind and uphold the community values through both words and actions.  If quality relationships are valued and this is expressed through speaking politely to one another, it is clear for all that swearing and yelling are behaviours that are not tolerated in the community.

6. Students need and want boundaries We all want to know where we stand and children are no exception. Boundaries provide a safety net. It is critical that I explain and regularly reinforce my expectations and boundaries.  Giving students the ‘heads up’ on expectations allows them to succeed. Explicitly acknowledging desired behaviours when they occur is a powerful reinforcement.

7. Students want to be with their class We all want to belong; students included.  My job is to help students belong and I do this in a variety of ways both in and outside the classroom  I work hard to help my students behave in a way that ensures they can remain in the classroom, working co-operatively with their peers.

8. Parents are part of the package I need to involve parents. They can be my greatest ally and support if I treat them with respect and help them to become actively engaged in their child’s learning in the classroom and at home. I can’t expect them to know our school’s expectations or how to help their child’s leaning if I haven’t shared this with them. They need to know that I am working on their behalf for their child, their family and our community.

9. Teaching is a challenging role There is no doubt that teaching is a challenging job! I need to be ‘on my game’ all the time. Sleep, exercise, healthy eating, adequate water consumption, prayer/meditation and ‘down time’ are all important in ensuring I keep up with the daily challenges in an energetic, positive and enthusiastic manner.

10.  Teaching comes from the heart My non-teaching family and friends rib me about the short school hours and long school holidays. I simply suggest they enrol in a teaching degree. I haven’t yet had anyone say, “Good idea. i think I will!” Teaching is not a job for just anyone. Teaching comes from the heart. I know that working with children is a passion; a desire to share a love of learning and a belief that what I do today positively impacts the future of our world. And, when the flame of passion subsides, it’s time to find a new job. Our students need teachers who are alive and burning with passion for their work.

To all those who have been my teachers; formally or informally, child or adult; anyone who has shared with me their wisdom, their gifts, talents, patience and passion; I sincerely thank you.

By Christine Shaw

Original blog can be found here: