Language and Legacy

Exploring the legacy of Italian language across generations of women of Italian origin

The history of migration is rich in testimonies and documentations on the cultural mediation role that women of Italian origin play in their migration journey and in putting down roots in a new land.

In this series of conversations, six first generation women, together with their daughters and granddaughters, take us on an exploration of their experiences and of the meaning inherent in sharing their deep linguistic and cultural baggage.

Australia Donna pays homage to these women and all women of Italian origin for their outstanding capacity, strength and determination to keep alive this legacy for new generations.

Click here to see more about the project.

Language and Legacy: Grazia Ceravolo and Domenica Rocca

Mother – Grazia Ceravolo

Born in Sant’Eufemia d’Aspromonte (Reggio Calabria province) in 1932, Grazia arrived in Australia in 1954. Both her parents were Italian born. Now a widow, she has three daughters, a son, and seven grand children. In the first years after arrival, Italian and Calabrese were spoken in the home, now also English. Grazia has maintained the Italian language and Calabrian dialect so her children and grandchildren can know and understand the culture of their parents and maintain a connection with relatives in Italy. She wants her children and grandchildren to be able to read her husband’s poetry, written in Italian, to better understand their origins and cultural heritage and so strengthen the bonds between generations. This she has sought to accomplish, not only through the spoken word and her husband’s writing, but also through the traditional dishes that she has always prepared for her family and through the dance school Gruppo Danza d’Aspromonte that she and her husband founded, where for many years they taught traditional dances like La tarantella to their own and many other children.


Daughter – Domenica Rocca

Domie was born in Adelaide in 1955. Both her parents were born in Italy. She is married with two daughters and one son. In her family of origin, she spoke Italian and Calabrian. Now she speaks English within her own family, a mixture of Calabrian and Italian with her parents. It is important for Domie to maintain the Italian language, even if not spoken correctly, as a way for her children to honour their grandparents who took care of them while she and her husband established and worked in their many Italian restaurants. Doubly important so her children can access their grandfather’s poetry and writing in which he reflected on his life in Italy, on his everlasting love for Calabria, and on his beloved traditions, which he never forgot throughout his long lifetime. Domie and her husband value the culinary legacy of Grazia’s store of recipes from which they draw for the menus of their restaurants and through which they hope their children will maintain a connection with their culture of origin.


Interviewer – Vera Ubaldi


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Language and Legacy: Maria Chiera and Rosa Filosi

Mother – Maria Chiera

Maria was born in Caulonia (Calabria province) in 1936 and arrived in Australia in 1960. Both her parents were Italian born. Now a widow, she has three daughters and eight grandchildren. In the first years after arrival the family spoke Calabrese and English. Now they speak Italian and English. While gradually learning to speak English in the early years, Maria continued to maintain her Italian language, sharing it with her family and within the community, particularly through her voluntary work assisting elderly people.


Daughter – Rosa Filosi

Rosa was born in Barmera, South Australia in 1966. Both her parents are Italian born. Her husband is of Italian origin born in Australia and they have two boys and a girl. Languages spoken in Rosa’s family of origin were Calabrese, Italian and English. Now in her own family English is the main language. Since her early years at school Rosa has been very interested in studying Italian. She has continued to deepen her knowledge of the language because for her it is the way to draw from the source of Italian history and culture.


Interviewer – Daniela Costa


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Language and Legacy: Carmela Allegretti, Elena Castrechini and Deanna Pinder

Mother – Carmela Allegretti

83 years of age, Carmela was born in San Giorgio La Molara, Provincia di Benevento, Italy, the last but one of eleven children. She emigrated to Australia in 1956 and married Arturo, an Italian migrant born in Mazzano Romano. Carmela is the mother of two children, has four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Together with her husband she has always maintained her Italian language, culture and traditions.


Daughter – Elena Castrechini

Elena Castrechini, 58 years of age, born in Australia, is proud of her Italian heritage. Having a San Giorgese mother, a father from Rome, her husband, children and grandchild all born in Australia, she has created a multicultural family, rich in languages, tradition and culture. Elena continues to uphold all of this in her workplace and at home with her family and friends.


Granddaughter – Deanna Pinder

Diana, 32 years of age, born in Australia, a young mother of her child, Sabastian. Proud of her Italo-Australian heritage she endeavours to speak Italian when in the company of her grandparents and family. She teaches a few Italian words to her little boy.


Interviewer – Vincenza Ferraro


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Language and Legacy: Reparata Spandrio, Sonia Pascoe and Isabella Pascoe

Mother – Reparata Spandrio

Reparata, born in S. Giorgio la Molara in Benevento, emigrated at a young age to Australia in 1955 with her mother Grazia and younger brother Mario and joined her dad Giovanni who had preceded them the previous year. When she was 18 she married Vittorio who had emigrated from Cosio in Valtellina and together had three children, Sonia being the daughter. Isabella, Sonia’s daughter, is one of Repa’s eight grand children. Italian was spoken in the family home and it was natural for the children to learn speak it as best they could and to learn about their heritage. Reparata has always had a passion and love for her Italy and continues to have a thirst to learn more about its history, art, music and culinary traditions. Her family is also particularly blessed and enriched with the influence of Argentina, Greece and Croatia through the children’s spouses.


Daughter – Sonia Pascoe

Thanks to her parents Sonia has spoken Italian since she was a child. But in the 1970s and 1980s once she started attending school where English was spoken it was difficult for her to carry on with the Italian language. Notwithstanding this, she has a passion for her Italian culture and would like to see her children carry on the traditions that have been passed onto her.


Granddaughter – Isabella Pascoe

Isabella is in High School and is a student of the Italian language. She has recently returned from her first trip to Italy where she had the opportunity to get to know the country where her grandparents were born. She speaks English and some Italian and is proud to be of Italian heritage.


Interviewer – Lara Di Fabio


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Language and Legacy: Antonietta Bonini and Tina Luce

Mother – Antonietta Bonini

Born in Altavilla (Avellino – Campania province) Antonietta arrived in Australia in 1955. Both her parents were Italian born. In the first years after arrival, Italian and Neapolitan were spoken in the home, then later also Valtellinese and English. Antonietta always maintained her Italian language because she was very homesick for Italy. She wanted her children to know about Italy and be able to communicate with relatives with whom she has always kept in contact.


Daughter – Tina Luce

Tina was born in Adelaide in 1969. Both her parents were born in Italy, her father in Valtellina (Sondrio – Lombardia province), her mother in Altavilla (Campania province). English is spoken in her immediate family. Tina learnt Italian from her mother and Neapolitan from her grandmother. She studied Italian in high school and uses the language in her work at Bene Aged Care where most of the elderly residents are of Italian origin. She was seven years old when she visited Italy for the first time where she began to learn the language more fully. Since then she has maintained contact with friends and relatives and takes pride in her linguistic and cultural heritage from both the north and south of Italy.


Interviewer – Giuliana Otmarich


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