Albert da Cruz, OAM: Passion for social inclusion

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He has spent a lifetime pushing for ‘acceptance’ over ‘tolerance’

Albert Peter da Cruz was so excited to see a woman in a sari out of his bus window that he rushed home, jumped into the car with his wife Florinda, and drove back in her direction.

That was in Perth, way back in 1970.

The da Cruzs had just arrived from Kenya, with three young children.

Not long after that, da Cruz ran into an Indian-origin gentleman at his bank. He became a lifelong friend, and both went on to found the Indian Society of Western Australia.

Having moved out of his home country a few years prior, da Cruz had always been passionate about cohesive and culturally pluralistic societies.

For his services to the community of WA through multicultural organisations, Albert da Cruz was awarded the OAM honour at this year’s Queen’s Birthday commemorations.

Albert and Florinda, young school teachers, made a name for themselves in Perth’s Goan community early on, as they extended hospitality to newly arrived migrants from India, helping them to settle into their new homes and new lives. As a member of the Goan Overseas Association WA Inc, Albert founded the OZ-GOAMOG (Goans of Australia Musicians of Goa).

Soon he found himself becoming increasingly involved with issues that arose as New Australians engaged with the mainstream community. Today as a retired 83-year-old living in Adamstown NSW, he looks back fondly at his stints with Community Television Perth (now West Television); the Family Review Committee of Legal Aid WA; Constitutional Centre Board, and the Perth Lodge of Freemasonry.

“I always thought it my duty to work with people who are disadvantaged,” Albert told Indian Link with characteristic humility. “I was honoured to be able to serve as the Chairperson of Online WA Multicultural Communities, and as a Committee Member of the Ethnic Communities Council Western Australia.”

“I’ve always had an issue with the word ‘tolerance’,” he went on. “I think it has inherent arrogance. I once told the Governor of WA many years ago, a personal friend, that I much prefer the term ‘acceptance’. Today I am happy to see its use has become the norm.”

The New Australians of today might actually have it easier, da Cruz feels. “They are educated and treated with respect,” he noted, but added, “To make this foreign land your home, you must be willing to acquire the characteristics of our type of democracy.”