Gilda Campbell

My name is Gilda Campbell (nee De Angelis). I came from Rose (Cosenza) Italy, to Adelaide, in the mid-1950s to start a new life and to succeed!  As a two-year-old, I immigrated to Australia together with my mother; my father had already immigrated two years earlier.

I have always lived in Adelaide. Italy is my heritage, whilst Adelaide is my history. I started my primary schooling as a five-year-old; and as can be expected, I did not speak a word of English. Throughout my life, English would become my first language whilst Italian would remain my mother tongue.  I speak Italian fluently, (including my dialect) but not with the same fluency or proficiency as English. I completed year 10 secondary school, followed by one year at Pride’s Business College. As an adult, I completed my year 12. 

At 16 years of age, I started working as a Shorthand/Typist with the Australian Tax Office; this was the beginning of my long and successful Federal public service career spanning four decades. During the early 1970s, there was a significant push to make tertiary education in Australia more accessible to working-and middle-class Australians.  When the Whitlam Labour government abolished university fees in 1974, I leapt to the opportunity and sat for the university entrance exam! I completed an Associate Diploma of Social Work, followed by a Bachelor of Social Work from University of South Australia. 

Throughout my Federal and State Government public service career spanning more than five decades, I completed Diplomas and several certifications related to my work. My academic success enabled me to become the kind of person that made a positive contribution to others and to society and which assisted me to lead a proud and happy work and family life. During my career, I held various roles within the Social Security, Immigration and Defence portfolios, including as a Social Worker, utilising my cross-cultural knowledge and skills for the settlement of established and/or newly-arrived migrants and refugees from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. This expertise became my passion. I continuously explored and learned about the different cultural aspects and sensitivities gleaned from those migrant and refugee clients who chose to settle in Adelaide, as well as from my personal migrant story and journey.

During the five decades when I was working full-time establishing my career (and studying part-time), I also created my family; my four children (two daughters and two sons) and grandchildren. As a mother and nonna, I feel blessed.

Reflecting on my life, I have come to appreciate all the challenging work and life experiences which taught me how to process and learn from them. My migrant story/journey, although fraught with some early family and childhood challenges and hardships, helped me identify my own inconsistencies, prompting me to make small but significant changes that triggered profound shifts in my life and which boosted the development of my sense of identity.  

I am a proud Italo-Australian donna!  

 June 2023