The current executive committee of the GOA NSW: From left, Alwyn Henriques, Abel Do Rosario, Paul Dias, Agnes D’Souza, Aaron Braganza, Tony Colaco (President), Roy Do Rosario and Ralph Vaz.
Aussie Goans mark 40th milestone
By Cyprian Fernandes*
On May 27, Goans will mark the 40th anniversary of the formation of the Goan Overseas Association of New South Wales, Australia at a sell-out ball in Sydney. This achievement is a source of great pride for the small community which includes members from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, India, and many other parts of the world. The association has been the hub for social, sports, traditional heritage and cultural activities.
The membership of the Goan Overseas Association of NSW, Australia, and successive presidents and executive committees over 40 years deserve every congratulations, admiration and respect for achieving this fantastic milestone.
There were times, over the past 40 years, when it looked quite likely that the association would fold because it was hard to find a president and an executive committee for him to lead. However, it is to the eternal credit of the men and women who brushed aside doubt and pushed forward in the firm belief that the community organisation had to survive, if only for the children and generations to come.
In recent years, one man has stood head and shoulders above: Tony Colaco. By and large he has managed to mold each of his executive committees into a dedicated team. I have seen quite a lot of this dedication and devotion at first hand. It is fitting that, perhaps, Tony Colaco, the most successful president in the history of GOA NSW should preside over the celebrations for this grand milestone.
I must also toast the wonderful efforts Alwyn Henriques, Ralph Vaz, Abel Do Rosario, Roy Do Rosario who have all be in outstanding in their selfless service to the Goan community under the leadership of Tony Colaco. I cannot talk highly enough about them. Their dedication is unquestionable.
More recently, a more outstanding and dedicated contribution has been achieved by "GOA photographer" Aaron Braganza. His is a labour of love delivered with passion and dedication.
However, there would be no success without the support and appreciation of the general membership. To them must go the credit for keeping the GOA NSW flame burning ever brightly. Without them there is no association.
There has also been a potent generational change. The association was founded by mainly East African Goan migrants and a few from India, Middle East and elsewhere. At its highest point, the association attracted more than 450 (if memory serves me right) to one of its functions at the Crystal Ballroom, Ryde. Today, only a few diehards are to be found. The larger population is absent because of, age, distance, baby-sitting commitments, they have better things to do or have “gone off” the GOA functions which are often said to be unbearingly noisy for many, me included.
There is a God. The vacuum left by the East Africans has been filled very aptly by Goans from Karachi, the Gulf, Goa, other parts of India and elsewhere. One outstanding thing about the new members is that they have been able to convince their children to support the GOA. For the moment at least there is a promise of a continued future with the young people present here today.
However, it was not always like this. For most of the early years, everyone lent a hand: setting up and decorating the halls, emptying the halls, folding chairs and tables, sweeping and generally cleaning. Lots of them also cooked for the Goencho Bazaar where young Goans were able to taste their traditional food at a very cheap rate. At St Francis Xavier’s Feast Day, the seniors were provided a home cooked meal and served specially donated alcohol. They were usually looked after by Queenie and Tony Machado. Harold D’Souza was always on hand to support this. Hazel D’Souza single handedly organised her annual lucky-dip with lots of prizes. There were also lots of games for adults and the children were catered for as well.
Tony Fernandes single-handedly organised the annual athletics meeting and more often than not, they were huge success unless of course the weather struck us out.
It is important at a function such as this to remember some of the past leading lights of the association.
The late Franco Pereira was a real driving force. A very popular bloke, sadly we had him for a very short time. Similarly, Fred Mascarenhas, was the best sight for sore eyes and utterly and completely dedicated to the association. We lost him too, too quickly. The same can be said of Alda D’Souza who also very dedicated in a variety of roles. Dr Pat D’Souza will remain in the hearts of everyone who knew him as one of the outstanding patrons of the association. You did not even have to ask, he always ready to donate a gift, make a cash donation and never miss a function. Pat and his wife Bertha were an integral part of the association. Pat’s daughter Susan once told me that she had to promise her father that she would attend the anniversary every year. She and her husband have not missed once.
The late George and Sheila Pereira deserve special mention. While George was a quiet gentle guy, Sheila was the life of the party. She was a delightful singer who regaled many in traditional Portuguese and Konkani songs. They made a wonderful pair of the GOA. It was only natural that their sons Clive and Colin would dedicate themselves to the GOA their parents loved so much.
Tony and Gloria Vaz, Greta Nazareth from Day One, Maria and Francis Baptista, George and Cynthia Peres Da Costa (two of the strongest supporters of the association) Tony (late, great patron) and Lucinda Coutinho, Alfred and Helen Vaz, Mona and Cass Dias, Felix and Hazel Nazareth, Mal (vice president, committee member, chief barman, and one of the hardest workers around) and Margaret Ferris, Maureen and Cornel Coutinho, Roy Rosario, Joe and Gwen D’Souza, Alzira Colaco (before and after she married Tony Colaco), Cheryl Fernandez, Mark and Eva Fonseca, Manual and Nelita Fernandes, Mark and Candice D’Souza, Dunstan D’Souza, Dawn and George Dias, Gemma and Michael Evesson, Lassere Gomes, Mary Ann Homes, Peter Dunn, Alvito Peres Da Costa, Willy and Betty Fernandez, Paul Francis, Anton Fernandes, Natty and Joe Gonsalves, Cressy and Alan De Souza, are some of the people who were utterly dedicated to the association and to whom we all owe a great debt. There is also the Goan community from Campbelltown which used to attend functions in droves and often had to hire a bus to get there. At one New Year’s Eve fancy dress dance, the bus load of them dressed as pupils at St Trinians with the inimitable Peter Pereira (in short sleeves, braces and shorts) as the comic headmaster!
Pio Dias and his wife Blanche put in a big effort during his presidency. They have continued to play a role especially during World Goa Day where their food stall is among the largest.
If there are people I left out inadvertently, I apologise -- hard to remember after all these years. However, you know who you are and if I could remember your names, I would love to have recognised you! We have also lost contact with the early ex-Karachi Goans who used to grace our functions. Among them especially were Elsa and Patrick Pinto, Leo (and later Piety) Rocha, Clovis D’Souza, Chris D’Souza, Jude D’Souza, and a whole bunch of other guys who strengthened the GOA cricket and other sports teams.
From the very first committee, Tony Machado (President 1977, 1978, 1982, 1988 and Trustee) George Peres Da Costa, Eva Fernandes, Tessa Antao, Joe and Gwen De Souza have remained staunch members and have all played a vital role in the survival of the association. Tessa and Joe Gomes made a very good team in organising games, dances, decorations, whists, picnics etc.
Maggie Soares (President 1989-1990 and Trustee) has played such a big role in the association that without her, we would all be the poorer. She is our one person community conscience for the Goan traditional music, songs, dances and the Goan heritage in general. She has always been delightfully forceful and has twisted her share of arms but she has got them doing whatever the way it should be done, be it a song, a dance or whatever. She is absolutely dedicated. She was the first person to hold a GOA ball in the Sydney Town Hall. Befitting the site of the venue, it was a truly glorious occasion.
Joe Pereira (a former Trustee, also wrote the association’s first Constitution, typed by Mona Dias) and the late John Mascarenhas were the accounting and auditing pillars of the association. They ensured that successive committees got their accounts right.
Eleanor D’Souza unofficially headed up a ladies committee which, for many years, catered for the social needs of the association. She is a brilliant organiser with great vision. It also helps that she also a great cook.
In their own right, Harold (President 1996, 1997 and 1998) and Hazel D’Souza have carved out a permanent place for themselves in the history of the GOA. Sport was always Harold’s big thing. He played a variety of sports as a young man but cricket and hockey were his favourites. As a result, he played a big hand in organising the exchange sports visits to Melbourne.
Silroy Thomas and his family deserve a special mention for their support of the association.
Alban Rattos (President 1990, 1994, 1995), once a great cricketer, also was very successful in leading the association, naturally, sport played a big part during his tenure.
Others who led the association with credit were: Mark D’Souza (1980) George Pereira (1981) Joe D’Lima (1983) Mark D’Silva (1992), Tony Andrade (1993), Glen D’Cruz (1999, 2005-2007), Pio Dias (2000, 2001), Victor Nazareth (2003-2005), Mark Soares (2009-2011)
In 2002, Laura Rattos led an all-women’s committee.
There are many, many committee members who played a vital role. I salute them all.
It is to the association’s great credit that it has been able to inspire people to dedicate their time and their talents for the continued success of the association. It is this spirit of unhindered dedication we raise our glasses to … 40 years of wonderful people who played their part in arriving at this day …
Happy Birthday, GOA NSW.
*Cyprian Fernandes is a leading executive journalist and author. His debut novel Yesterday in Paradise was published recently to wide acclaim. Fernandes was president of GOA NSW 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988 and a committee member during: 1980, 1981, 1997. He is currently a Trustee.