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Meet The Woman Behind InLife Magazine’s Latest Issue: Violi Calbert

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She is one of the people involved in organising the recent fundraising concert for NARRA, she’s also active in many other community events, as well as quite known for her media work within the Filipino-Australian community. Her name is Violi Calvert and this is her story.

Violeta [nee Mendoza Garcia] Calvert was born in Manila on August 19, 1949. She is the firstborn of Mariano Garcia and Rosalina Mendoza Garcia and three years older than her only sibling Cecilia [Ellen]. She adopted the nickname “Violi” which she holds dear as it was given to her by a dear friend who passed on at an early age.

She completed her secondary education at the Philippine College of Commerce High School. Then she undertook a Bachelor of Elementary Education at the University of the East[Cum Laude, 1970], Manila followed by Masters of Arts in Education in the Graduate School of Education in UE [1972].

Violi migrated to Australia in December 1974. The main reason for her leaving her country of birth was to escape the confines of Martial Law and to earn more money to help her father’s treatment for cancer. Sadly, she was only two months in Australia when her dear father Mariano passed away at the young age of 60 years. As she was not able to go home for the funeral and say her goodbye, Violi wailed for years each time she visited his tomb.

In 1978, she sponsored her sister Ellen and her widowed mother Rosa. She met her husband John through social tennis at the invitation of a close friend, in August 1980. They got married in September 1981, and have two sons: Timothy John, who is in IT and based in Sydney; Bevan Stuart, who played professional European handball and had been based in Germany since 2009. She is delighted that she is now a Lola [Grandma] with Bevan and partner Ann Christin having a son, Luke, who is turning three years old. She considers the family blessed because their mother Rosa lived with them to a good age of 96 years.

Although with a young family, but with help of her mother who was looking after the kids, Violi completed additional studies in Sydney – Bachelor of Business from UTS [1995] which took six years on part-time studies and Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Management [2004] by correspondence from The Flinders University of South Australia; other studies were a Certificate in Fraud Investigation, Freelance Journalism and the Certificate of Community Media Training.

Her career was spent mostly in the NSW Public Service in the corporate governance and fraud investigation areas, as well as conducting fraud awareness and prevention courses where she used her teaching skills. She worked in the Dept of Health [10 years], Dept of Education [10 years], and Dept of Mineral Resources [4 years], to name a few.

Violi was also a co-founding officer of the North Shore Filipino-Australian Association which undertook micro-finance projects for eleven years in the Philippines through the NGO NORFIL. Furthermore, she participated in many community initiatives and projects.

Every Wednesday for the last seven years or so, Violi has been working as a volunteer in the kitchen of the cafe of St Mary Mackillop’s place in North Sydney, where devotees go for their lunch or snack. She also helps out in the chapel during Mass, doing the reading or being a Communion Minister.

In 2015 she received the Multicultural and Indigenous Media Award – Coverage of Community Affairs from the Parliament of NSW for the series of articles she wrote about the case of Maria Sevilla and her son, who were being denied a permanent visa after Maria’s son Tyrone, was diagnosed as autistic. Following public support, media involvement, and an online petition, the Immigration Department eventually allowed the mother and son to stay permanently in Australia. She also received recognition as Ambassador of Culture and the Arts – Media and Community Service in 2016.

Violi co-hosted Sandigan Radio in 2rdj 88.1FM for three years from 2007 with Michelle Baltazar. They took over Sandigan Radio from its founder Jimmy Pimentel who had to give it up due to many commitments. When Michelle left, she continued with Charles Chan for another two years. Thereafter she joined Radio Tagumpay in Triple H 100.1FM in 2012 at the invitation of her friend Pin Montemayor; which now she enjoys co-hosting with Criz Guce and Andrew Russell on Mondays, 2-4 pm.

She is happy that through her work in writing and on radio, that she is able to serve the Filipino-Australian community by sharing information and entertainment, giving a chance to people pursuing their passion to be promoted and celebrating successful and inspirational kababayans. She loves and goes by Radio Tagumpay’s philosophy – “tagumpay or success is not just about what one achieves, but what one inspires others to achieve.”

“I find it humbling and at the same time inspiring when my small contribution helps people. For example, I was greatly interested in the case of Maria Sevilla and son Tyrone that I wrote articles for publication and we did interviews for airing on the radio when she finished her shift at nearly 1 a.m. Unbeknown to me the late Editor and Publisher of The Filipino Australian, and good friend, Romy Cayabyab, submitted the articles for the media awards and it was successful. Another thing I like about being a broadcaster is providing a platform especially for the young people at the start of their journey and seeing them grow confident and succeed in their area of passion.”

“The downside is seeing the radio being used to pursue personal or even political goals mainly and the community’s good getting less consideration, if not totally disregarded. It is also a big commitment that takes me away from the family ie. attending community events, doing interviews, and spending most of Monday afternoons in the studio, as well as the travel involved.”

Being in the media [radio and publications] scene, the most valuable lesson she has learned thus far is that not all people they deal with are honest and genuine.

Some of her memorable experiences go beyond the core functions of broadcasting and writing. Radio Tagumpay had undertaken two fundraisings Inspire Concerts and co-produced the recent ‘White Christmas Carols with MiG Ayesa and Friends”. Also, a small group in the Filipino Press was involved in undertaking the fundraising concert “United” and producing a charity CD for the typhoon victims.

She considers all the people they interview on the radio and for publication, as interesting; but feel glad that the highly successful ones being so down to earth and accommodating as live guests in their small studio. She named the recent ones being MiG Ayesa, our Fil-Aus Broadway and international star; George Ellis, Philharmonic orchestra conductor and music arranger who did the Opening of Sydney Olympics and Tribute to Michael George Music which starred MiG Ayesa; legendary local artists Marcus Rivera, Brian Lorenz, Lillian de Los Reyes, to name a few and especially the young ones; painter Mon Coloma; also Consul Generals Anne Jalando-on Louis, Teresa Taguiang, Ezzedin Tago and Consul Ford Angeles. She mentioned that they also have a long list of those interviewed live by telephone calls.

“My husband and I have been retired and have many plans for travel. He has been very supportive over the years but looking forward to doing more things retirees normally do. I have been doing radio for nearly ten years so hopefully, we will have a young person join us and replace me in Radio Tagumpay one day. We encourage whoever may be interested to send us a message on our Facebook page to do a trial for mutual assurance if it is worth a try. I just want to highlight that it is unpaid volunteer work and needs a lot of commitment and dedication. I am a natural storyteller and I love highlighting inspiring kababayans, so I will keep on sending articles to radio and our community newspapers.”

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