Australia: per forza e per amore
Giovanni was working on an olive farm as a teenager when he was suddenly called home - he was leaving for Australia in 2 hours!
In this story he tells of his life since that day and how he became a political figure in his new homeland.
My name is Giovanni Sgro. I was born in a peasant family in Seminara, Calabria. In 1952 I migrated to Australia. I was one of the first assisted migrant. I had no intention of migrating to Australia or anywhere else, but, one afternoon in February while I was at work at the olive oil factories, I heard a whistle. I recognised it as a family whistle. It was my brother, call me to go home because I had to leave at 5 o’clock that afternoon to migrate to Australia.
At home my mother and sister were crying and had already packed a small suitcase with my few possession. My father had mailed the application without telling me. I protest and then went off to the piazza. My cousin and a few others follow me to convince me to go, as I only had two hours to catch the train to Naples. In the end they convince me but just to make sure I didn’t change my mind, one of them come with me.
I spend two weeks at Bagnolli in the migration camp at Naples because the ship broken down. It then took 44 days to sail to Melbourne.
From Melbourne we went by train to Bonegilla Military Camp where I spend three horrible months and took a part the Bonegilla Revolt. I finally got work as a painter in Cobram painting the Church and Convent. By 1954 I was in Melbourne where I became very active with my Union.
I then become involved in the Labour Party because I realised that migrant were discriminated against and they were just numbers. Because I was involve in politic the Conservative Government of the day refuse me citizenship and re-entry visa, so I could not go to Italy to visit my sick mother. That was very hard for me and my parents, but I was convinced that what I was doing was right.
It wasn’t until 1973 after the election of the Whitlam Labour Government that I was grant a Australian Citizenship at the big ceremony at the Coburg Town Hall. In the early 70 I was one of the founder of FILEF, the Italian Federation of Migrant Workers and their Family in Australian and the first President of Ethnic Community Council of Victoria.
I was one of only two people have been imprisoned in the dungeon of the Parliament House with the then Principle of Brunswick Girls High School. I had disrupt the opening of State Parliament to demand a new School. (?) in 1979 I was elected to Parliament, to the Upper House, to bring home the reality that Australia’s a multi cultural society. I made part of my maiden speech in Italian.
That was the first it had been done in an English speaking Parliament. Later I was elected to Deputy President and Chairman of Committee. It was not only an honour for me who had arrived here with no English and very little school but for the migrant community in this country.
My Parliamentary Office was the busiest office because many ordinary people of all backgrounds recognised my as one of them. I hadn’t wanted to come to Australia. My father forged my signature because he thought I could have a better life. It’s only recently that I have understood that.
All my life in Australia I have worked to create a better society. I have been happy here, I have enjoyed my life. I have a wife and three daughters and grandchildren, but I cannot forget where I was born. In the daytime I work in Australia but at night I am in Seminara, Calabria.
Australia: per forza e per amore
Yeni Hayat = New life
New life new country
My Second Home
Dad, I made it!
Loving Lebanon and Australia
The spaces in between
Where do I belong?
Heart of Otara
The story of an immigrant filmmaker
A Fishy Problem
My Beautiful Schwesters
Story education resources
Education Museum Victoria: Drama and Cultural Diversity
These resources for Years 2 - 12 students focus on immigration and cultural diversity through drama based activities. School-based activities are provided for before or after an excursion to the Immigration Museum , or may be used as an additional resource for teaching immigration and/or cultural diversity themes in classroom programs.
Education ACMI Generator - Immigration Stories
Diverse digital stories about the immigrant experience in Australia.
Immigrants who arrived in Australia from countries as varied as Ethiopa, Italy and Vietnam describe the sacrifices made, the experience of arriving in a new country and how immigration impacts on the next generation. Each digital story and theme is accompanied by education resources suitable for VELS 4-6.