I was born in Malvito, a hill town in Calabria in the province of Cosenza, Southern Italy. When I was five my father, like many other men of that period, migrated to Australia to seek work and a better future for his family. My mother and I stayed in Malvito and waited for my father either to return or to send for us to join him in Australia.
In 1957 my father came home for a few months and we were overjoyed to see him, although I hardly remembered him, other than through his letters. My mother was quite keen to come to Australia, even though she would miss her large family, and I was very excited to hear that we would be going there to live.
Our month long trip on the “Oceania” was full of new experiences, travelling through the Suez Canal, celebrating crossing of the equator and seeing many places and other cultures. Accompanying us to Australia was my aunt and her four children. My uncle had stayed in Adelaide, bought a house and was getting ready for our arrival. We were all to live together for a few months before my father purchased a maisonette in Brompton for us to live in. After four years my parents purchased a more substantial house in West Croydon and this remained our family home until the death of my father.
We arrived in Adelaide in March 1958 and quickly settled in our new life which was made easier by the fact that several of our “paesani” had already settled here and so we found an immediate community to support and befriend us. We developed strong bonds with these friends and as we lived close to each other they became our extended families here. We would all attend each other’s baptisms, first communions, confirmations, engagements and weddings. That was our social life when I was growing up.
I attended Hindmarsh Primary School and Woodville High School where I had very supportive teachers who encouraged me to do well. One of my teachers at high school, Mrs Jean Fox, befriended and mentored me for four years until I matriculated by making sure I was in the right class and doing the right subjects which included studying a language. Italian was not offered at the school and we decided that I would study Italian on my own with a bit of help from the French teacher who spoke some Italian. I enjoyed studying and worked very hard to do well and my parents encouraged me to go on to tertiary education. I attended Adelaide Teacher’s College where I completed a Diploma in Teaching (Secondary).
My first teaching appointment as a high school teacher took me to the country town of Millicent, in the South East, where I spent four years and where I met my husband, Ian. In 1973 we decided to spend a year travelling overseas, particularly visiting my birth country. It was wonderful visiting many Italian places and reconnecting with relatives, especially my grandmother, whom I hadn’t seen since my childhood. Even though I spoke Italian, knew the culture and had lived amongst Italians in Australia I realised how Australian I had become in the way I thought and behaved. I have returned to Italy many times over the years and always look forward to visiting my hometown and relatives but at the same time when I return to Australia I know this is where I belong.
Back in Australia I taught at Underdale High School for a year and half before taking time off to start a family. I stayed at home to look after my three children for six years before returning to part-time teaching at Cabra College, a Catholic secondary school.
I spent the next twenty six years there teaching accounting and business related subjects to senior students. Many of these students came from Asia and had limited levels of English. I was sympathetic to their difficulties and supported them as they tried to adapt to an Australian culture and education system which was quite different from theirs. I also taught Italian to junior classes and in that way maintained my language skills.
In retirement I have used my teaching skills to help newly arrived migrants and refugees learn English and support them as they settle into a new culture. I am comfortable working with people from different cultures as I feel I have an understanding of the challenges they face.
Throughout my life I have tried to maintain my Italian identity and language by reading Italian, watching Italian films and teaching the language to adults who have an interest in the Italian culture and language and who wish to travel to Italy.
My identity has been formed by belonging to two different cultures and I am very happy to have had this opportunity.