meet the co.as.it. (Sa) volunteers!
We are truly fortunate to have such amazing social support volunteers who selflessly dedicate their time to support and uplift the Italian community. To celebrate both their dedication and generosity, we have created profiles so our volunteers can share insightful stories about their lives including their migration journey to Australia.
Enjoy getting to know our social support volunteers and stay tuned for more volunteer profiles to be posted in the near future!
Volunteer at Italian Pensioners of Thebarton Group
What town / province were you born: Oppido Mamertina, Reggio Calabria.
Year arrived in Australia: 1951.
Who did you come to Australia with and who did you leave behind in Italy? I came to Australia under guarantor, to meet my Father who was already here. I left my Mother and brothers and sisters behind in Italy, who came over to Australia two years later.
Was Australia what you expected to be like? If not what surprised you the most? I was surprised because I arrived in Melbourne, and I didn’t expect to see a big city like I saw. I was expecting it to be bushland.
What did you miss the most about Italy? Not knowing how to speak or write English was very hard.
First job you had in Australia? Millers Ropes in Brunswick, Melbourne.
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering? I love doing something for the people and giving them an opportunity to go out and enjoy themselves.
What are a few words you would use to describe yourself? I’m self-confident!
How would your friends describe you? I think my friends would say I’m a good leader and good organiser.
Favourite Movie Star? Maureen O’Hara.
Who would play you in a movie? Danny DeVito.
Most proud moment? Becoming a Father to my children.
VOLUNTEER AT ITALIAN PENSIONERS OF THEBARTON GROUP
What town / province were you born: Catanzaro, Reggio Calabria.
Year arrived in Australia: 1953.
Who did you come to Australia with and who did you leave behind in Italy? I came to Australia with my brother, to meet my Father who arrived here in 1951. I left my Mother and brother behind who arrived a few months after me. I arrived in Fremantle, and my Father came to pick me up with the train, as he was working for the railway, where we arrived at Port Augusta and lived for a few years.
What did you miss the most about Italy? I missed my friends and my relatives the most and my old life, it was hard for the first few months.
First job you had in Australia? I was working in the railway at the local train deposit as a shunter for 6 months, and after that I was working on the train as a driver’s assistant for 2 years, until we moved to Adelaide. Once I came to Adelaide, I went to trade school for 4 years to become a Fitter and Turner, where I later got a job at Holdens, where I worked for 25 years.
What did you do for fun when you were younger? I would often go to dances in Adelaide and the country with my friends, we would ride our motorbikes there. We also went to the cinemas every week.
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering? I like being able to help people, and keep the peace with everyone.
What are a few words you would use to describe yourself? A leader.
How would your friends describe you? Different friends describe you in different ways, but I think a businessman and dedicated person.
Favourite Movie Star? An Italian actress, Gina Lollobrigida.
Who would play you in a movie? Robert DeNiro.
Most proud moment? When I got married! My wife.
VOLUNTEER AT THE CAMPANIA CLUB
What region/town are you from in Italy? Benevento, Campania.
What year did you arrive in Australia? 1958.
Who did you come to Australia with and/or who did you leave behind? I came to Australia with my mother and two brothers to meet our Dad who had been here 3 years prior.
Was Australia what you expected it to be like? If not, what surprised you the most? When I came to Australia we lived a small house in Campbelltown, we didn’t have a bathroom inside, but I didn’t care because at least we had running water in our house. It was very different from living on the farm where we had to carry the water with a bucket, so I loved this, but the thing I really loved the most was the three beautiful rose bushes at the front of our house. I thought I was so great. I loved flowers, and still do! My husband knows that and every week we have fresh flowers on our bench. It was harder for my Mum and Dad when we got here but for myself and my brothers it was much easier, because we wanted to be in Australia.
First job you had in Australia At 13 and a half I wanted to start working. I loved to sew and my mother had a non-electric machine already, so I knew a little about sewing. I got my father to register me as a 14-year-old, which was the working age back then and ended up getting a job in Victoria Square in a little factory that made girls clothes. I had a few different jobs after that job but once I was married I worked with my husband who was working as a shoe clicker. I would sew the uppers for moccasins shoes. After I had my 3 children we opened a fish shop, where I had to learn how to fillet fish. It was a very different job but I was happy to do it until we sold that business to open a deli. After we sold our deli we started our own business, which is known today as Globe Importers, on Magill Road, we sold it in 1986. I am now retired, but eight years ago I was asked to start a Tombola group at the Campania club, and I have loved doing this ever since the day we started.
Which club do you volunteer at? The Campania Club.
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering at Campania Club? I love being around middle- aged people – I don’t like to call them old! I love coming here and working with this group of beautiful ladies. In 8 years we’ve never fight, we are all together, working together and happy. We don’t work by ourselves, we work as a group, and I thank them very much for that. I have a lot of love for the people that come to the group too, I like to help people.
How would you describe yourself? Patient – I have a lot of patience for everyone in my life, my husband, children, grandchildren and everyone I see at the group.
Who would play you in a movie? Julie Andrews.
VOLUNTEER AT St. Maria Goretti Club
What region/town are you from in Italy? Benevento, Campania.
What year did you arrive in Australia? 1967.
Who did you come to Australia with and/or who did you leave behind? I came with my husband Italo when I was 7 months pregnant with our first-born child, leaving behind my whole family, including my two brothers and two sisters. We have returned to Italy 7 times since being in Australia.
Was Australia what you expected it to be like? I loved Australia as soon as I arrived, I thought it was so beautiful, and was happy that we came!
First job you had in Australia In Italy I worked in a factory in Benevento making leather gloves, and would also would sew for my family and friends from home. When I arrived in Australia, I had a young family and spent my days raising my children.
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering at St. Maria Goretti Club? I love getting people together at the group with the help of my husband Italo and all of the other volunteers. I like the friendships that are created by bringing everyone together. As most of my family is overseas, I especially enjoy that we can create a place at St. Maria Goretti where people want to come and be together like family.
How would you describe yourself? Hardworking, friendly and kind.
Favourite movie star growing up? Elvis Presley.
Who would play you in a movie? Liza Minnelli.
Most proud moment and why? I am most proud of the life my husband and I have created, my children but most especially my grandchildren.
Marisa la bella
VOLUNTEER AT unley mensa
What region/town are you from in Italy? I was born in Adelaide, but both my parents lived in Italy until they migrated to Australia in the 1950’s. They came from villages close to Naples, Benevento and Avellino.
What year did you arrive in Australia? My father arrived in Australia in 1953 and my mother arrived in 1955.
Who did you come to Australia with and/or who did you leave behind? My father being the eldest male in his family (his father died during the war) left behind his mother and 5 siblings in Benevento. He travelled with friends to Australia and was met by my mother’s brother and his wife who had migrated and settled in Adelaide in early 1952. My mother left behind her father and mother (Nonna passed away 3 years after mum left her homeland and she never saw her mother again). She also left behind her brother and sister-in-law (they eventually immigrated to
Australia in the early 1960’s along with her father). She travelled with her younger brother and several friends making the month-long journey. Several of the women, like my mother travelled to
Australia to reunite with their husbands whom they had been apart from for some years.
Was Australia what you expected it to be like? If not, what surprised you the most? My father told me that it was very difficult for him and his friends (as some of their wives were still
in Italy) in coping with their daily lives. They went to work, and when they returned home had to cook for themselves, wash their dirty work clothes and get food ready for their next workday. As they worked 7 days per week, they had little time to socialise, but he said that when they did get the opportunity to do so, they would enjoy quite a few “beers”, playing cards or bocci.
Language was a huge barrier for both my parents and as there was no assistance from the Government, had to rely on family and friends to house and feed them until they were able to establish themselves. They both worked extremely hard (my father working 2 jobs) as my brother was born 10 months after mum arrived. Dad and mum bought their first house a few years later in Parkside, close to family and friends and I was born there in 1958. A wonderful Italian community was established and I’m always amazed when listening the “old stories” of the battles they faced through much adversity and to their triumphs enabling them to establish successful, satisfying and enjoyable lives.
What did you / do you miss the most about Italy? It’s so sad that I have not had the opportunity to visit Italy. I had booked to go in 2020 but then we were hit with COVID and that was the end of that? I am really hoping to travel there in the not-so-distant future.
My parents said they missed Italy as it was their birthplace, but because of the hard lives they endured growing up – they did not miss that side of it, but it would always be home and have a
special place in their hearts. They never had the opportunity of seeing much of the beauty that is Italy – my father went back twice and loved it, but my mother has never been back to her homeland.
My father’s family moved to England in the early 1960’s and his siblings and mother established lives there. My father visited them in 1965 and again in 1977. My mum had the opportunity of visiting
the UK in 1980.
Who had the greatest influence on you during your childhood and why? My Aunty Adelina, she was always so kind and generous in her encouragement and patience in teaching me to knit and crotchet. She always made time for me, nothing was ever too hard, and she always welcomed me with her beautiful smile and lots of hugs.
My Uncle Michael, he taught me to dance, and at every wedding (and there were lots when I was young) I would always get him up and he never refused my pestering him to dance with me. Dancing is something I truly love and enjoy doing (not that I get much practice these days) and I will always be grateful to him for teaching me.
First job you had in Australia My first job was working for the City of Unley – as a receptionist.
Which club do you volunteer at? Unley Italian Community Association – Unley Mensa.
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering at Unley Mensa? I really enjoy the interaction amongst our volunteer group and knowing that we are providing a service that I had a small part in establishing whilst working with the City of Unley and that it has continued for over 30 years.
Main reason for volunteering? I enjoy helping people and feel a sense of pride in being able to give back to our community. We
owe a great deal to our Italian pioneers who under much duress forged a better life for themselves
and in turn ensured a great life for future generations.
List a few words to describe yourself. Caring, happy, helpful, patient.
List a few words your friends would use to describe you. Loyal, hardworking, funny, enjoys a drink.
Favourite movie star / sport hero or singer growing up? Audrey Hepburn.
Who would play you in a movie? Sally Field.
Most proud moment and why? When I got my driver’s licence. It gave me a sense of freedom and independence, much to my
One thing about you that few people know about you? I can’t swim???
VOLUNTEER AT Casa D'abruzzo-molise club
What region/town are you from in Italy? Abruzzo
What year did you arrive in Australia? 1969
Who did you come to Australia with and/or who did you leave behind? I came to Australia with my husband and 3-year-old son on a ship which docked in Fremantle. We made our way to Melbourne and then finally South Australia where we settled down and grew our family with two more children. It was hard leaving Italy, I left behind my parents and a huge family of 27 cousins, so coming to Australia without them was difficult.
First job you had in Australia I worked at Myers in the city store as a cleaner, which was a very difficult time for me. The hours were at night and I had 3 young children at home so I would often have to leave to catch the bus before my husband got home from his job at Mitsubishi. I would leave the kids at home waiting for him to arrive and with no mobile phones to call and check up on them I would spend my shifts at working wondering if everything was ok at home.
I also worked as a dressmaker in Italy, so in Australia I would often do alterations for a shop and sometimes take on private work dressmaking.
Which club do you volunteer at? Casa D’Abruzzo-Molise Club.
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering at Casa D’Abruzzo-Molise Club? It’s my home! I have been at the Casa D’Abruzzo- Molise Club for 40 years now. I have worked in the kitchen, managed the club and exercise and bocce groups.
Main reason for volunteering? The ladies that come and do the exercise and bocce classes really are like my family. We care for each other and are there for each other which is very special.
List a few words your friends would use to describe you Chatterbox, very friendly and I would do anything for anyone.
Favourite movie star / sport hero or singer growing up? Gianni Morandi.
Who would play you in a movie? Bette Midler.
Most proud moment and why? The first time I became a grandma was my most proud moment. That grandson is now 25 years old and I have two more beautiful grandchildren who are 20 and 18 years old.