Main site navigation

Deborah Ruiz Wall


Deborah Ruiz Wall, portrait

More information about the Philippines-born community in Australia can be found at the DIMIA website.

Proud of both her Filipino heritage and her Australian citizenship, Deborah embodies the spirit of Australian multiculturalism as it was imagined thirty years ago when she arrived in Sydney. 'Biculturalism is my identity,' she says.

Deborah Ruiz Wall was born in the Philippines, but has lived most of her life in Australia. Married in Manila in 1972 to David, an Australian she met in 1971 when he was working in Papua New Guinea, Deborah, David and the first of their two children migrated to Australia in 1974. Deborah had only visited Australia once before, when she and David holidayed with his family for a week in 1973. She subsequently established a family, a successful career in teaching in the New South Wales Technical and Further Education (TAFE) system and became a powerful voice in public advocacy, especially on the behalf of Filipina women and Indigenous Australians. Proud of both her Filipino heritage and her Australia citizenship, Deborah embodies the spirit of Australian multiculturalism as it was imagined thirty years ago when she arrived in Sydney. 'Biculturalism is my identity,' she says. Her bi-cultural identity is further reflected in the poetry and photographs that she now has time to exhibit, since retiring from teaching. An energetic, committed, and compassionate advocate for human rights, Deborah Ruiz Wall, OAM, is a truly inspirational woman to whom all Australians owe a debt of gratitude.

Born in Manila in 1949, Deborah is the middle child in a family of four daughters, one of whom died in infancy. Both parents ran successful businesses in Manila and made sure that their daughters were well educated. All of them received a tertiary education, Deborah graduating from the University of the Philippines with a degree in Journalism and Communications in 1971. After graduating, she quickly found a position in the Philippines Broadcasting Service, before moving to Papua New Guinea in 1973, where she was appointed to the position of Press Secretary for the Opposition Leader. By this time, Deborah was married to David.

Deborah and David met via a forum provided by the popular press. David, who was working for the Australian Department of Health, wrote a letter that was published in the Manila papers about life in PNG. A comment about a 'woman shortage' in that country provoked a response from Deborah, along the lines of 'you may have a woman shortage, here we have a rice shortage!' The rest, as they say, is history. They established a relationship by mail, which was hurried along to some extent when David took a holiday to Manila in 1971. At that time, he couldn't convince Deborah to marry him. They did, however, maintain a long distance relationship after he returned to PNG.

In 1972, when the Marcos regime declared martial law in the Philippines, David became increasingly anxious about the situation in Manila for a media representative as forthright as Deborah. He invited her to PNG for a holiday, and in the same year they were married, Deborah agreeing to move to PNG and work for the leader of the Opposition.

This was the first step of Deborah's journey to permanent settlement in Australia. In 1974, in response to an Australian Broadcasting Commission story reporting on teacher shortages in Australia, Deborah and David decided to move to Australia. In April 1974 they made the journey to Sydney on Arcadia, a stressful four months by all accounts. This was nothing compared to the stress of life in the Sydney suburbs for a woman used to full time work and active engagement in political life. Deborah rejected the social pressure to be a 'stay at home' mother and made the decision to work. Her considerable skills in the media and communications area were highly marketable in the expanding TAFE system. With a portfolio of speeches written in PNG but no formal qualifications, she managed to convince an interview panel that she was a good prospect. She started work in 1975 and established herself as an innovator in the teaching of media, communications and public relations, a reputation she carried throughout her thirty year career.

While establishing a family and a career, Deborah was also establishing a reputation as a tireless community worker. Initially, her focus was on the political situation in the Philippines. She was part of a core group, the Philippine Action Support Group, which sponsored talks by visiting Filipino activists including the late Senator Jose Diokno to inform Australians about the plight of those suffering under President Marcos' regime and the nature of Philippine/Australian relations. This group produced a newsletter to let the Australian public know that Filipinos wished to return to a democracy and have a change of regime.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, her attention turned to more local issues. At this time, there was a concern in the community over domestic violence in relation to cross-cultural marriages. After a state-wide consultation sponsored by the Ethnic Affairs Commission, of which she was one of three facilitators, Deborah helped to establish the Filipino Women's Working Party to ensure that some of the recommendations put forward by community workers during the consultation were implemented. The Commission subsequently gave the working group a grant to produce Dealing with the Media (1992), a training kit to assist community workers deal with journalists, who seldom looked beyond 'mail order bride' stereotypes when representing Filipina women. Consultation on policy evolved with the Immigration Department liaising with the group on immigration and serial sponsorship issues, matters of great significance to Filipina women. In 1994 the Working Party, in collaboration with SBS radio, developed a series of programs aimed at educating Filipino migrants about government services available to them, including information on how to deal with racism. The work, The Development of a Radio Information Package for Filipino women 'Ngayong Aussie ka na, Manay!' (1994) was cited by the New South Wales as a model for best practice in providing government information.

Beyond this, Deborah works hard to promote reconciliation in this country between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. She holds the position of non-indigenous Regional Representative for Sydney, New South Wales Reconciliation Council and she is a Member of the Board. She is the convenor of the Redfern Residents for Reconciliation, contributing significantly to the establishment of the Redfern Community Centre that was opened in 2004. She is also a member of the Women's Reconciliation Network that produced an educational video resource called 'Around the Kitchen Table' featuring work on reconciliation by women from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, English, Irish, Filipino, Greek, Jewish and Muslim communities.

In 2004, Deborah Ruiz Wall received the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) from the Australian Commonwealth Government for service to the community in the areas of social justice, reconciliation and multiculturalism. It's the least the community could do to honour a truly remarkable woman!

View a selection of Deborah's exhibitions and writings

See for example :


Source of Image: Deborah Ruiz Wall

<< Previous

Select Resources

Philippine Community Herald Newspaper
PO Box 785
Fairfield NSW 2165
Fax 02 9725 7722

The Philippines Times
Phone 03 9886 6470
Fax 03 9802 8472

National Library of Australia, Manuscript Section
Papers of Aileen Chai

State Library of Victoria, La Trobe Library, Australian Manuscripts Collection
Papers of the Philippines Resource Centre

Select List of Community Support Groups

Solidarity Philippines Australia Network (SPAN)

Centre for Philippine Concerns - Australia

New South Wales

Inner West Migrant Resource Centre
Level 3,
6-8 Holden St.
Ashfield NSW 2131
Phone 02 9798 4777
Fax 02 9798 4408

Philippine Australian Community Services
Unit 8 93-97 Main St.
Blacktown NSW 2148
Phone 02 9672 3738
Fax 9676 8584

Saint Vincent De Paul Society
Lewisham Complex
West and Thomas St.
Lewisham NSW 2049
Phone 02 9560 8666
Fax 02 9568 6199

Western Sydney Tenants' Service
46 Marion St.
Harris Park NSW 2150
Phone 02 9891 6377
Fax 02 9635 8548

Catholic Filipino Chaplaincy
Migrant Chaplains
Phone: 02 9868 3324
02 9604 5512

Kawayan Filipino Language and Cultural School
10 Tucana Place
Erskine Park NSW 2759
Phone 02 9843 2797
Fax 02 9834 6170


Centre for Philippine Concerns-Australia, Brisbane Branch
Mail Address: Justice Place 84 Park Road
Woolloongabba QLD 4102
Fax: (+61 7) 3891 6944

Kabalikat, Inc.
PO Box 514
Cannon Hill QLD 4170
Phone 07 3348 8415
Fax 07 3348 9415

Filipino Senior Citizen of Brisbane
16 Islington St.
Runcorn Nth QLD 4113


Centre for Philippine Concerns-Australia, Victoria Branch
Office Address: 1st Floor, Ross House
247-251 Flinders Lane
Melbourne Vic 3000
Tel: (03) 9663 2874
Fax: (03) 9663 7620

Collective of Filipinas for Empowerment and Development (CFED)
597 Queensberry Street
North Melbourne, Victoria, 3051
Phone (03) 9329 9042

Filipino Community Council
93 Cowper St.,
Footscray 3011
Phone 03 9687 9011

FASCACAI (For the elderly)
93 Cowper St.
Footscray VIC 3011
Phone 03 9687 9011

GABRIELA Australia, Inc.
(Filipino Women's Network in Victoria)
Philippines Community Centre
Cnr. Armstrong and Thomas Sts.,
Laverton VIC 3028
Phone 03 9360 0065

Westgate Region Migrant Resource Centre
78-82 2nd Ave
North Altona VIC 3022
Phone 03 9391 3355

Eastern Domestic Violence Outreach Service
PO Box 701
Heathmont VIC 3135
Phone 03 9870 5939

Western Australia

Relationships Australia Joondalup
Davidson Terrace
Joondalup WA 6027
Phone 08 9301 2000

Northern Suburbs Migrant Resource Centre
14 Chesterfield Road
Mirrabooka WA 6061
Phone 08 9345 5755

See also:

Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia
PO Box 344 Curtin, ACT 2605
Phone:02 6282 5755
Fax: 02 6282 5734

<< Previous