so both my parents, my mum and dad, come from a small village in a region
of Italy called Basilicata
which is in the South and it's inland in the middle of the peninsula
in a sort of mountainous area
and it's called Grumento, Grumento Nova
and the dialect is um
specific to their town
so all the dialects change, like even though there's villages five or six kilometres away
there's little subtle differences
dialects within Basilicata are kind of similar, but they're all different from each other depending on the town?
well, I sort of learned to speak with my grandparents and parents, how they spoke
so I think where the Italian language sort of
changed to one uniform way of speaking
they sort of stuck with their late 40s 1950s dialect
was it your first language?
I think it was my first language you know
how do you identify
living here growing up in an Anglo
Australian country feeling like an Italian or a wog, you know
and then going to Italy and feeling like an Aussie
so you're defined in spaces by what you're not never by what you are?
yeah, it's sort of a way to put it
so growing up in Australia, you always felt like you were different?
yeah, as a kid yeah, because I wasn't an Aussie
and I didn't have blonde hair and blue eyes and my name wasn't John Smith
it was Luigi Antonio Maiorino
did you experience discrimination growing up?
yeah, a little bit of discrimination, I wouldn't say a lot of discrimination
as in like discrimination as in like not having
opportunities or...I think we all had opportunities, especially in sport
like if you could kick a footy well, well that didn't matter what you were, so I don't think we were discriminated against in
opportunity-ways but just discriminated against by other kids cause yeah
we had...brought different food to school, and suppose looked a bit different, thought a bit different
some kids came to school and weren't bilingual, their parents only spoke to them in Italian
I mean on the whole it was alright, but there was always that thing that
you're an Aussie or you're a wog... and I was a wog
it was not just defining a difference
yeah, there was that racist...
yeah, but it never entered my mind at the time that they were wogs too in a way... they were boat people too like
they weren't Indigenous to this country
that didn't come to me then
one kid, who was Italian
who was a great footy player and respected because of his footy skills
I remember him... it might have even been me, or might have been someone else...calling them a wog
even though he was a wog
he was in with the Aussie hierarchy
I had a lot of fights in the schoolyard
living here, growing up in an Anglo Australian country, I feel like an Italian or a wog, you know and then when I went to Italy I felt like an Aussie
how do you feel about using the word 'wog' then if you've grown up with it being used in a derogatory way a lot of the time?
like it doesn't worry me to say 'wog' because it's a term or it's a...
...just a word
I suppose when you're a kid, it's different
and maybe it wasn't bad enough to worry me
and you don't really hear it anymore
you don't hear people
using that term
in a derogatory way
so yeah coming from migrant parents and grandparents, I think gardening is one of the big things that's
that's influenced me like I really love growing
veggies, having a veggie garden and fruit trees
so I don't know if I would have gone in that direction if I didn't have that
and that's like a consequence of migration do you think?
well no that's just a consequence of their culture that they brought with them?
yeah, and that satisfaction of doing something with the earth
sorta keeping it basic
in some stuff that I've been reading they talk about the
experiences of people who migrate, no matter when they have or from what cultural background they have, but of pulling together resources
I think that accumulation probably came from
them being poor in their country and then coming here and
like it was an opportunity to just get a job and then I do
overtime and make money and buy a house and maybe buy another house
so it was like 'make hay while the sun shines'
type of mentality
and there was a lot of sunshine so they made a lot of hay
so maybe a bit of that's rubbed off
what's probably trickled down with me
is like, in the way that, I want to own my own house
not that I don't want to accumulate wealth
but I'm not striving to accumulate wealth
you know we learn about other cultures
Vietnamese people come here and we see Vietnamese restaurants opening
and Greek restaurants, we have Italian restaurants.
we know about other cultures
and yet, I get about 40 years of age and
stumbled on to Aboriginal culture
and it was like, I don't know anything about Aboriginal culture and I'm living in Aboriginal Australia
culture's been here for, like I said, you know
60,000 - 80,000 years...so it's like
how can I not know anything?
like I should know
and then discovered this whole other view
like saw Australia in a whole different way
where do you think Italian Australian people fit into current Australian politics?
well, it's like it's like the the kid at primary school
who's a wog, who called other Italian kids wogs...it's very recent that I hear Italian people
will come out with a comment like 'fuck off, we're full'
so it's that same mentality of...
this is the thing about Australian culture, once you're accepted
you automatically become a racist, you know?
like I'm not trying to generalise
you know as an Italian, you know, son of Italian migrants
for starters, I mean we still have to establish ourselves as who we are in this country under Aboriginal Law
with Aboriginal people, that hasn't been reconciled yet.
as a visitor as a
person who is not from this country, I suppose we've got to reconcile that
it's not about 'I've worked hard', I had the opportunity to work and save a few dollars and pay a house off because I was in the right place at the right time
I s'pose the attitude
that I've heard is, or seen, is that 'but I worked damn hard to get what I have'
I mean, you can that you had the opportunity to
of this, that and the other and they probably did work hard
they're not exclusive to each other though and that's the difference
it's not about 'I've worked hard', I had the opportunity to work
and save a few dollars and pay a house off because I was in the right place at the right time
there was a stage there where I want to move out into the country and
have this idyllic little hobby farm, and I tried that and
yeah there was no pot of gold at the end of that rainbow
why is that?
because I think it was a romantic idea
to recreate this lifestyle that nonno and nonna talk about?
it wasn't what I thought it would be
what did you think it would be?
I thought it would be like
get away from 9:00 to 5:00 and then just totally concentrate on
having this blissful life of
growing your own food and
breathing fresh air and
working hard and sleeping well
but I don't think I've got that feeling of longing, I think I could probably live anywhere now
and adapt to any situation
if I had to
do you feel like that's because your connection to culture and to migration
as part of your identity has changed over time?
yeah, it's changed and I don't place that much importance on
on it anymore
I still obviously connect with the Italian culture or language
and that's, like it is what it is, because I grew up in an Italian family and I was born in an Italian family
I don't think it's like any deep... it's not a deep thing that I need to
have or to fall back on
I'd probably like to think that that's not really what defines me or
what I need to have as a rock to be who I am
and then marrying mum too
she was pretty traditional, traditional family
Well, that's another influence too, I s'pose
there's stuff going on there that you don't even realise is going on
yeah, it's just you find yourself comfortable in spaces that are
entrenched with those kinds of things
do you think that there has been created a unique Italian Australian cultural identity that is separate from
Italy separate from Australia?
yeah, for sure, of course cause it's a
mixing of two cultures
like if mum and dad had of migrated to America
it would have been different again
yeah, you become a product of your environment
what do you think is unique to Italian Australian culture?
it's just a mix of things, it's the way you think, it's just yeah different way of thinking
different way of processing things and then if you're talking about me specifically then
it'd be a different level to you
or to my mum and dad
do you think that that's a feature of Italian Australian culture, as a uniqueness?
I think it's... that's
being diluted out now for Italian...
even though there is always... there is that way of relating
you might relate to other second-generation
Italians, cause we've had that similar
exposure cause of where we were born
I don't know if I go looking for it
of feel the need to have it, but when I come across it, it's comfortable and sometimes uncomfortable
I don't think I need to formally belong to any of that, you know
but when I come across it, yeah it's nice