my mum came in the 50s, my dad came in the 70s um...
my moth- my grandfather
who came in the 50s from Tocco in the Provincia di Pescara
which is in Abruzzo so he came over first and then he brought his six
or seven sisters over one by one
so then was your mum born here?
- ah yes, she was born... they'd only been here like a short while - ah okay
my dad was born in Italy umm he came when he was 15 so
so first my grandfather... my grandfather...my dad was born in Abruzzo but my...and so was my grandmother
but my grandfather was born in Puglia and he went to Abruzzo
- on military service and met my grandmother - yeah right
- they came to Australia - yeah right
first and then sent for the rest of the family and my dad didn't really know he was
- leaving forever - wow
this was as late as... like the early 70s
and he was one of the last to come by boat so yeah but he did fairly well I mean he
he he came here when he was 15 and then passed VCE English at 16
or it's equivalent
when my mum was brought home by my dad to meet the family they were in the
driveway and they could hear them from inside the
house and my mum goes 'what are they yelling about?'
and my dad goes 'what do you mean?'
my parents, they talk to each other, even now like between rooms like they have a normal conversation
yeah do you speak in Abruzzese dialect?
- um initially... - or do your family?
I mean yes, there's the problem is that even within Abruzzo
all the dialects are different cause the region is quite mountainous
yeah okay, I didn't know that
so Tocco, Toccolani is different from whatever they...Milanese
cause my dad's from a frazione of Sulmona um so it's not quite a commune
it's a little town, it's an offshoot of the town umm and they speak even, maybe not now, but even then the...
the frazione spoke different to Sulmona so even between towns they were a bit different yeah
but they... obviously they can understand each other through these dialects
they're not that diverse, in that sense, it's not like they're speaking Napoletana or something
I knew more words like I could speak more like in Abruzzese than Italian
until I lived there for...when I went on exchange
the Italians would laugh at me cause I would say some stuff
that an Australian saying this is just really cute
like they couldn't believe I like...
like an Australian speaking Abruzzese
like even the non-Abruzzese could understand it and they thought that was amazing that I...
yeah...was Italian your first language?
or was English your first language?
ah I was the first one in my family to speak English first, I could speak Italian decently
- and my brothers can't speak Italian - yeah right
cause my older cousins couldn't speak Italian
um and they got less and less fluent as they go on, if you know what I mean?
I saw a video of it recently, my baptism
it was basically The Godfather
where do you feel like you fit, if there is a place that you feel like you fit?
I would say from the outset I'm
definitely not Italian um even my dad who's born in Italy's
not Italian anymore...
Italian in a sense of like an Italian from Italy?
yes like, I mean, you look at the Italian like Italian Americans
on TV compared to like...you watch an Italian program, like you know
it's completely different and like it's the same here
if you're not Italian
then are you Australian?
well you are Australian but I mean my brothers are Australian
because they're a bit younger and my cousins
are less Australian than me, I think I'm kind of stuck in the middle, to use a cliché
but what I do feel affiliation with is people my age who are not just Italian but
Greeks and from the Balk... Balkan states...other immigrants
like kind of you just you just you feel they're your family
like cause you have...your thing in common is where you are at
that point and you're just a bit lost
so that's what you identify with it doesn't...it's not really anything to do
with like race
like even culture at that point, it's just circumstance
um, I saw a question... oh forth 'what do you feel about the word wog?'
um, I mean
like I think it was a lot worse like ah, for our parents and grandparents
I mean, you shouldn't use it then... now, amongst ourselves, it's just a shorthand
I mean it's not...once or twice I've heard people say it to me when they're drunk or
something and it was inappropriate, it's not an appropriate, like, to say that
if you're not a wog
there is like a, like a unique kind of social, political
positioning of this kind of generation of Italians... what is that?
I think it's more existential
um no it's not it's really not...it's not reflected anywhere
I mean this is a...I mean I mentioned I've kind of thought about these things in
- the past yes - yeah and you've written about it
and I'm really... this is a really thing good thing you're doing
because it's good to know that other people have kind of felt this
I mean, because people only see that... and obviously I'm not trying to... this is what you would
describe as a first world problem...in a sense that you know we're doing fine
we're fed and we're educated and so forth but you know
within that context I mean it's
people's solution to things are 'well just work harder and more money'
or something...but if you're kind of looking for more self-acclimation and then you don't even know...
like belonging? haha
yeah, belonging but you don't even know who you are
or if that is even...there is even the who that finds yeah that's, that's tough
I mean when you're in poverty and establishing yourself you have a
direction because you just know what you have to do
and yeah, we are a unique kind of position where you know we don't
really fit somewhere
but I think once you leave your home, you've kind of burnt
your home because if you go back 20 years later you're different and the
place has changed and the place that you have come isn't...wasn't your home
so good unless... the people who have homes are the people who were born in
their homes and it's kind of grew up with similar people and that's their home
in some ways it's a disadvantage because it gives you the longing for a home
does open up different crevices of thought that you can start exploring things that
have nothing to do with it
here there is this like holding on to this place and
that the idea of the place of home that they have doesn't exist there either
which is like exactly what you were saying so they've like created this here in the
hope that will hold... keep the traditions that they were having at home but those
those things aren't there anymore
half the town came here
I mean like, they all know each other, like the town was deserted...like it was just...
they kind of started the town here again
you still sort sort of cry in Italian
even though you are... you um... you think in English
how would you describe the unique culture that is an Italian Australian culture then?
the Italian Australian culture now, I would say, the Italians here, they've got
Australian friends and they bring them over for barbecues
with their...like with the Italian family and so forth it's kind of like um, you can call it
the uh, sharing phase
where like, the things that we have from Italy like the
kind of meshing together...like we have barbecues and beer and so forth
but afterwards we'll drink coffee
things, kind of, were very tough in like
the villages and so forth like um, you know if you had meat today you might not have meat for
a week you just... they just carry these things of like, you know,
like conservatism but not...
but it's not reflective of their income anymore
it's reflective of a mindset
exactly and that just goes into the way they
view everything else... kind of the way they approach the world
they still put their family and their kids beyond their happiness
I'm really generalising here
yeah, of course
like, what I've learned is that people are individuals
- but I think, in this context it's okay to generalise - of course
so you personally don't feel so hugely
connected to Australia, it doesn't sound like?
I'm interested in Australia
yeah, but from afar, kind of
yes, I like observing Australia like I like watching
politics in Australia and I care about their issues and stuff but um it's kind of like a
third-person observer... and I think I'm more detached than I should be in terms of
like I'm a unique example in that sense, like people... I'm not a
representative I think it's just more my personality I just I happen to have grown...
I happen to feel more connected to Italy
I wouldn't just say with possessions and material things just like valuing um...
the time you spend, you put into something like, like you really don't throw friends away
you don't like don't throw your ambitions away like
I don't know if it's like... I can't speak for Australian's on this...like Anglo Australians
but yeah it's kind of like everything you do has a value and you're really mindful of
not wasting your life, not wasting opportunity, not wasting anything because
I mean social... I'll just touch on social capital first because just
from my experience but that's the one thing that every immigrant loses
the Italians that immigrate here now, their second wave so to speak, their nothing
like our families, um, they're nothing, they're nothing like us actually
they're just modern...more modern Europeans I mean they come here already speaking English
and so forth but they also stick together
if we're gonna be called wogs
and all this while I may as well be a wog and there's nothing wrong with that
and then you just kind of...and then you have a positive view of being
Italian Australian and so forth
you reclaim your identity
exactly cause otherwise you'd have identity crisis, as a teenager
do you know what I mean, so I do admit that like when I was younger I felt like that at many times
in my life
it's really changed quite dramatically for me um
but it's nice still having that that feeling of being Italian Australian left
and still proud of it, it's still...it's still a part of me
but you don't...it's not a dominant...
it's not something sort of dominating thing that you always have to bring to the
forefront in every situation
but you did in the past?
yes, in the past you couldn't separate the two