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Motion: SA Italian Association 70th Anniversary

Adjourned debate on motion of the Hon. F. Pangallo:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges the 70th anniversary of the South Australian Italian Association (SAIA);

2. Recognises the contributions made by the SAIA to the advancement of multiculturalism in South Australia through the preservation and promotion of Italian culture, heritage, services and experiences within the Italian community and the wider community of South Australia;

3. Acknowledges the enthusiastic work by the SAIA in fostering strong business and cultural ties between South Australia and Italy;

4. Congratulates Dr Daniela Cosmini and Professor Diana Glenn on the publication of their book La Seconda Casa (The Second Home) marking and documenting the important history of the SAIA;

5. Recognises South Australia's continuing strong business, trading, diplomatic and economic ties with Italy; and

6. Identifies that Italian is the largest non-English language spoken in South Australian homes, and calls on Flinders University to immediately reverse its decision to cut the teaching of Italian.

 

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (21:57): With great pleasure, I rise to support this motion, and I rise to also add my praise for the South Australian Italian Association and to congratulate all members, past and present, for all the hard work they have put in over the last 70 years. Today, the Italian community is one of the oldest and largest non-English-speaking immigrant communities in Australia, and Italian is the second most common ancestry among South Australians.

However, due to a variety of reasons, most notably the federal government's White Australia Policy and the enormous distance between the two countries, migrating to Australia from Italy was not an easy option for quite some time, but with the advent of passenger shipping routes being established in the 1920s, more and more Italian migrants started to arrive in Australia.

It was common practice that the migration followed a chain: the settler migrants, who were usually men, arrived first. After they had established themselves they would sponsor their brothers, sons, cousins, or friends to migrate. After this had occurred, wives and children were then brought over, and once the family was well-established, then ageing parents immigrated too.

During this initial period, migrants often purchased properties that quickly became successful concrete, mosaic, marble, mica and, my favourite, terrazzo businesses. I love terrazzo, the Hon. Frank Pangallo. It played a key role, quite literally, in building South Australia. Others turned their land into market gardens that would sell fresh produce at the East End market. This period saw the creation of many Italian-owned small businesses and retail shops with boarding rooms located either at the rear or on the second floor where many migrants would take up lodgings upon their arrival.

Immigration rates from Italy to Australia remained slow and steady following the pattern of chain migration until after World War II, which of course saw immigration dramatically increase right across the globe. There were certainly many challenges with uprooting one's life and moving to a different country with a different language, a different culture and the subsequent feelings of isolation that this brings. Tensions before and after the Second World War saw many Italian migrants subjected to racism and, at the peak of the war, sent to internment camps.

Up until the 1970s, when the benefits of multiculturalism were beginning to be recognised—and indeed there was some good political leadership that led to that—there was a strong expectation for Italian migrants to assimilate to the 'Australian way of life', which saw many either abandon their cultural practices or proudly stand behind them. Another response to this was the formation of clubs or associations, which sought to create a second home, a physical point of cultural reference that became instrumental for the maintenance of cultural rituals and provided an enduring sense of identity and belonging.

It was this response that inevitably led to the establishment of the South Australian Italian Association. The South Australian Italian Association has had a long and unique history consisting of several transformations in its time. It began as the Catholic Italian Welfare Association, which was formed in 1949, which then became the Italian Australian Centre in 1965 following the amalgamation of the CIWA, Juventus United Sports and Social Club, and Lega Italiana Social and Cultural Club Incorporated. Just two years later, in 1967, the South Australian Italian Association was formed.

One of the main priorities of the association, when it was first formed, was facilitating welfare activity and nurturing the social wellbeing of first-generation Italian migrants. Seventy years on, and the association's current vision of a vibrant community centre for all, where Italian culture is preserved and promoted, reflects its origins. Over the years, these visions have been achieved through hosting many events: balls, barbecues, discos, lunches, pasta nights, fundraisers for various charities, International Women's Day celebrations, billiards competitions, weddings and, of course, private functions.

I note that I have seen many a World Cup game at the Italian Centre. I used to live across the road. It was a very handy place to go when the World Cup games were on in the middle of the deep hours of the night or the early hours of the morn. There, in the physical location at 262 Carrington Street, it was known as the Italian Club, and it seemed to be the place to be on a Sunday night for quite some time. It was known as a high-profile location for business lunches and other events. Some well-known historic public figures who visited the centre included Sir Donald Bradman, Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser and various other state and federal politicians.

The principal objective in the creation and development of the South Australian Italian Association was to promote and facilitate activity as an umbrella organisation to connect all Italians in our state regardless of their regional identity and to promote outreach to the wider community. It currently houses many important Italian community organisations, including the Committee for Italians Abroad, an elected consular advisory committee funded by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, known more commonly by its Italian acronym, Com.It.Es; the South Australian chapter of the Dante Alighieri Society, an organisation charged with promoting Italian language—which clearly I need more training upon—and culture through its language classes and many cultural activities and initiatives; and also the Adelaide Italian Festival.

It also housed many other community organisations, including the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Italian Assistance Association, which is an organisation that plays an active role in aged-care coordination for the elderly members of our local Italian community. As the organisation has matured and the Italian community has become more established within the greater South Australian community, the South Australian Italian Association has focused its energy and activities on fundraising for charities. In the last decade alone, the organisation has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities, including the Central Domestic Violence Centre, Headspace Adelaide, the Hutt St Centre, the Starlight Foundation, the Mary Potter Hospice, the SIDS Foundation, the Dream Ride foundation and Nonna's Cucina, which is an Italian version of Meals on Wheels, just to name a few.

It was in the main hall there that the Italian South Australians came together in the wee hours of the morning to cheer on the Italian national team in the final of the 2020 European football championships between Italy and England. After a thrilling 3-2 victory I am informed in the penalty shootout, it was from that very place that the Italia fans grabbed their Italian flags and banners in joyful strain and took to the streets, marching down Carrington Street, up King William Street, through Victoria Square and onto this place, the Parliament of South Australia, where we were treated to the rapturous chanting, beating of drums, blaring of horns, lighting of flares and the odd tune from the piano accordion—one not attributed to the former Hon. Mark Parnell.

Whilst there have been few women in the leadership and governance roles, it has been noted that the association would not have succeeded without women. There has, in fact, only been one woman president in the association's history—Mary Azzopardi—who served as the social director for many years before becoming president. Mary played a pivotal role in organising events, such as the Sunday night discos, which then became the Sunday night bistros; weddings; dances; christenings; and the annual Carnevale stall. When she was interviewed for La Seconda Casa, she paid tribute to the group of women volunteers who worked alongside her to help ensure that functions ran smoothly by setting the tables, decorating the venue, ushering and selling tickets to the events.

Other women who have held leadership roles include Madeleine Griguol, the inaugural president of the women's subcommittee back in 1967, and Teresa Dall'Acqua Leonardi and Silvana Zerella have both served as vice presidents on the centre's board in more recent times. Another notable mention is Ms Vincenza (Enza) Staffiero, who undoubtedly contributed to the high-profile nature of the Italian Club.

Enza arrived in South Australia as a young woman unaccompanied and, despite having initially struggled with the language barrier, she found work making cakes, pies and pasties. She then worked at Chateau Fort in Unley until it closed, which is when she found her way to the Italian Centre. Enza was widely adored for her bubbly personality and incredible food, with one patron stating that they had dined at seven-star restaurants all over the world, but the food prepared by Enza and her team was the best they had ever eaten.

I also wish to pay tribute to the authors of La Seconda Casa: Dr Daniela Cosmini and Emeritus Professor Diana Glenn, who have done an absolutely excellent job in conducting interviews, gathering and collating historical resources, and writing and publishing this book which documents the important history of the association.

Dr Cosmini is a Senior Lecturer in Italian in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Flinders University. Her research interests are in Italian migration to Australia, ageing in a foreign land and material culture. Emeritus Professor Glenn is a former dean of the School of Humanities and Creative Arts at Flinders University and current National Head of the School of Arts at the Australian Catholic University.

Also instrumental in helping put the book together was Antonietta Itropico, Publications Manager at the Art Gallery of South Australia, who carried out the preparation, layout and graphic design of the volume, as well as the president, Dr Phillip Donato, who assisted in the sourcing of interviewees, gathering of historical records and photographs, and general fact-checking.

I had the absolute privilege and honour of attending the annual members' luncheon this year where the La Seconda Casa lunch was held, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the organisation and launching of this book. It was officially launched by the Hon. Hieu Van Le, the then Governor, Italophile and proud champion of multiculturalism in our state. The event was emceed by renowned chef, Rosa Matto, and attended by many dignitaries, including Mr Adriano Stendardo, Italian Consul to South Australia, and various members of this place and the other place. I would like to thank the current president, Dr Phillip Donato, for his kind invitation. It was a magnificent event. I thoroughly enjoyed it and enjoyed listening to and hearing the stories from 70 years of arduous work, adventure and activity.

The South Australian Italian Association has been an integral player in facilitating social interaction and community development that has crossed regional borderlines of identity. The association's ability to continuously revitalise and reinvent itself and remain current over the last 70 years is no easy feat and yet another example of the many hours that countless members, staff and volunteers have put in to make the association the success it is today.

Socially, culturally and economically, Italian migrants have played such a vital role in the development of South Australia. It would be near impossible to imagine our state without those incredible contributions, so thank you, congratulations and best of luck for 70 years gone, 70 years to come and many more. I commend the motion.

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