Anton Swan has been a driving force in linking our communities through good times and bad.
The long-time Brisbane resident has played an integral role in the strong bonding of the expatriate Sri Lankan and Australian communities. This has never been more evident than when the community was called into action to help in times of need.
Anton holds the position of Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in Queensland but his contribution to the community has reached far beyond this role. Anton is a dynamic figure as patron of Sri Lankan organisations in Brisbane that have come together for many fundraising events to support local and overseas causes.
When the tsunami hit Sri Lanka on that fateful Boxing Day in 2004, wiping out communities and claiming more than 40,000 lives, it generated a wave of support from all quarters of the globe including Brisbane. The community reacted quickly, and Sri Lanka has been a beneficiary of many fundraising ventures carried out by organisations such as the Sri Lanka Disaster Relief Fund of Queensland, the Sri Lanka Sports Association of Qld and the Sri Lanka Society of Qld.
One of the big ventures undertaken was the collection and despatch of a 40-foot container of emergency aid in 2005. This was followed by the delivery of 60 computers to schools in stricken areas. The SLDRFQ was formed to help the countless victims of the tsunami. All communities united in this project to help rebuild villages along the southeast and northeast coast of Sri Lanka.
Through all this, Anton played his part as community leader by lending a hand, from loading containers and packing aid to generating support from government and businesses.
Anton was a key member of the committee of the Sri Lanka Disaster Relief Fund that collaborated with the Queensland Government to construct 225 houses in Sri Lanka to help those affected by the 2004 tsunami. This took a tremendous effort to coordinate and manage the funds to satisfy the stringent Queensland Government conditions.
In 2006 funds were raised for those affected by cyclone Larry and funds were handed over to the then Premier of Queensland Hon. Anna Bligh. In 2011, the Sri Lankan community in Queensland again rallied around Anton to raise funds for people affected by the devastating floods.
In 2018, Anton headed a drive to help the drought-affected Australian farmers and the funds were handed over to the Premier of Queensland, Hon. Annastacia Palaszczuk.
These are but snapshots of the regular community involvement, in which Anton has played a key role. Without a doubt, Anton holds a very special place in the hearts of the Sri Lankan community and indeed the whole community of Queensland.
Anton has held the position of Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in Queensland since 1990 apart from a brief spell away. During this time, he has engaged with a range of Queensland government ministers and dignitaries on behalf of successive Sri Lanka High Commissioners in Canberra. This goes to show the value of his services and the skills he possesses in interpersonal relationships.
Anton has never sat back and expected people to come to him in the execution of his consular duties. While he was working on the Gold Coast, he would drive to Brisbane many times a week at his own cost to attend community meetings and celebrations. He would often inform those needing consular services to meet him at a place mutually convenient and carry the documentation and rubber stamps etc. with him.
Apart from his consular work, there have been many occasions where he has helped those who were badly in need of help.
Being the representative for Sri Lanka, Anton is the first to be contacted by government agencies such as the Department of Immigration, and Australian Customs. He has helped those departments on many occasions in resolving issues raised.
In the Consular Corps, Anton’s role was not limited to being a member. He served the group as their Treasurer from 2015 to 2017, streamlining the finances and accumulating a healthy bank balance for a group that was struggling when he took over. He is now the Dean of the Consular Corps.
Anton has served the Sri Lankan community in many ways. He was President of the Sri Lanka Society of Queensland from 1986 to 1988. During this time, he was a valuable link in helping the Sri Lankan migrants assimilate with the Australian community.
He was the main organiser and coordinator of the Sri Lanka pavilion at Expo 88. He and his team did a splendid job in organising the pavilion and hosting the visiting Sri Lanka President at the time.
Currently, Anton serves as the Patron of the following organisations in Queensland: Federation of Sri Lankan Organisations in Queensland (FSOQ), Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen and Police Association of Queensland and the Sri Lanka Sports Association of Queensland (SLSAQ).
In 2009, a mammoth effort was launched by Anton to raise funds for the internally displaced people in Sri Lanka soon after the war between Sri Lanka Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ended in May 2009.
In 2017, after a devastating floods and landslides in Sri Lanka, Anton was involved in raising funds to provide food, shelter and school supplies for the children affected.
He continues to support a housing project for the poor with Fr Dilan Perera in Sri Lanka. To date, the project has provided 125 houses, without regard to religion or race.