Meet Wyndham’s newest citizen of the year.
In a twist of fate, Hoppers Crossing’s Walter Villagonzalo received the city’s top honour 29 years to the day after arriving as a migrant from the Phillipines.
The 62-year-old father of five and grandfather of four was selected for his 20 years of community service, namely as the founder of the Migrant Hub, a social enterprise that has been running since 2009 to help newly arrived migrants assimilate into mainstream Australian society.
The hub also encourages migrants to establish small businesses to create their own employment opportunities and offers crisis accommodation for up to six weeks.
“A lot of migrants come with skills and qualifications, but they’re not recognised in Australia,” Mr Villagonzalo said.
“What we try to do is organise and encourage migrants to set up their own businesses so they can create their own job and other jobs.
“There’s a need for migrants to look after themselves. We’re part of this community and we need to contribute.”
When Mr Villagonzalo moved to Australia in 1986, his technology qualifications made it easy for him to land a job within two months. It didn’t take him long to start helping other migrants do the same.
“When we started, about 25 per cent of the population was born overseas,” he said. “Now it’s 34 per cent and in 10 to 15 years it will be more than 50 per cent.
“It’s good for our community group as well to see that the work has been recognised.”
Wyndham mayor Peter Maynard said Mr Villagonzalo was a worthy recipient.
“He has made an outstanding contribution to the community,” Cr Maynard said.