Fortunata Maria Callipari

I was born in 1967 to Catholic Italian parents. Can you believe they both had the same name? Giuseppe and Giuseppa: the male derivative of the female derivative of the male derivative. Translated you will recognise Joseph or Joe or Pep; Josephine or Josie or Peppa; Jo for short

When I was born it was not about giving me a name. Oh no! It was about the politics of gender equity. And male privilege mixed with Italian cultural practice, that it is the right of the Father to name the first born children by the names of his parents.

I was the third born. My predecessors, sister and brother, were both named after their grandparents: my Father’s Mum and Dad. Dad was one of five boys, so imagine with so many cousins named Elena and Michael left us all asking “which one” are you talking about?

In those days, arranged marriage was the beginning of a relationship. When I came along my parents had been married seven years… yes, I was the seven-year itch baby!

So my namesake was debated. My Father wanted naming rights. My Mother wanted the right to name me after her Mother, Esther, given she had complied with tradition on the last two occasions – she felt it was only a fair exchange. But alas my Father insisted I be named after his Grandmother: Fortunata.

There he had spoken, had given the order, and that was final – or so he thought. While Pep was not looking, Peppa snuck in a second name on the birth certificate: Maria Fortunata Maria.

As I grew up, Maria stuck, because it was a deliberate rebellious action, subtle but significant as the women’s lib movement took off in Australia. My Mother graciously stood her ground because every Italian family needed a Maria, and Maria was a good name for someone like me.

Over the years I’ve had many people sing to me. “Maria, I just met a girl called Maria”- a very romantic song making me feel like the most attractive woman in the world that others may find me so beautiful and fall in love with me. The other song is not so endearing: “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” Which I have reconfigured as: “How do you solve a problem? Call Maria!”

I’ve taught myself positivity, the art of being and enlightenment, and see myself as the problem solver, connector and a global citizen.

Then I think about the song, “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones:

“Pleased to meet you!
Hope you guess my name…
But what’s puzzling you?
Is the nature of my game?”

Of course, this song says more about the reputation of the Stones, than it says anything about me. The power of song, lyrics, tunes are important to me, and as the song says “Please allow me to introduce myself tonight, I am the fortunate one!”


To bring you up to date with what happened since I was born here is a list of events in sequential order over a 50 year period.

• Grew up on a farm in Mildura.

• Left home at 18 to study in Melbourne.

• Taught drama and media at a secondary school.

• Left teaching.

• Got a mortgage.

• Worked in the community sector.

• Retrained in arts marketing and management.

• Got married.

• Gave birth to a 4.8 kilograms bundle of joy, appropriately named MAX.

• Got a job in local government.

• Built a new house.

• Got another mortgage.

• Looking for next career move…


The present

I joined La Voce Della Luna, an Italian Women’s choir recently. When I arrived there were four women who introduced themselves to me as Maria. So bring forth Fortunata. I am reconnecting with my cultural heritage by learning Italian folksongs.

Being with this group of women reveals the diversity within the culture and the unique qualities of each person. It’s exciting to be part of something bigger than myself and to contribute to the next generation of choir, keeping traditions alive and kicking. A quote that I love by Gustav Malher is “Tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the fire.” The choir is 20 years old and the majority of original members are aged between 40 – 86 years.

Now I proudly use Fortunata Maria Callipari to honour both parents equally and because it makes me feel happy when I think that it means Lucky Maria…

You can follow Fortunata’s blog here.

Saturday, March 18th, 2017