Well, thank you and what a wonderful evening, to many distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Can I start by congratulating you, Lorenzo, all your staff and of course past Presidents Joe Fin and Pino Migliorino. 50 years' anniversary! This is an organisation that is truly in the hearts of so many in our community.
The Prime Minister was unable to join us today as he has been campaigning in South Australia. I am very proud to be here this evening on his behalf and read this message:
It is with pleasure that I send my best wishes to everyone celebrating Festa della Repubblica, Italian National Day.
Commemorating the historic events of 1946 when the Italian people voted to become a republic, this is a wonderful opportunity to honour the rich heritage and achievement of modern day Italy.
To everyone who has gathered for tonight's Italian National Ball, I wish you well at this celebration. I also thank you for your generous support for the work of Co.As.It. in this very special anniversary year.
Since 1968, Co.As.It has brought comfort, support and dignity to some of the most vulnerable in our community, and done so much to promote Italian culture.
I join you in honouring the commitment of all who have nurtured this wonderful community organisation over the decades, and who sustain it with pride and generosity today.
With these thoughts in mind, I hope that everyone is inspired and uplifted by these special celebrations. Buona Festa della Repubblica!
Now, since 1968, Co.As.It has worked tirelessly in serving the needs of the Italian-Australian community here in New South Wales; it is of the old and of the young, of the needy and the disabled, in their homes, in the schools and in the various Co.As.It. premises.
I am proud that the Australian Government recognises the invaluable contribution that Co.As.It has made to the wider community and has supported your services and programs and, most especially, the bi-lingual school.
You have brought dignity and hope, friendship and joy to many lives. You have brought il sapore d'Italia in all you have done. So many in our community have been touched by you over the years.
It is indeed fitting that tonight's celebration is held here. This is a place of great memories, of joy, of sorrow, of dreams, of hopes.
Lorenzo, you said these walls tell a story – well they do. They tell the story of my father, who arrived at this wharf in January 1953, his old suitcase filled with the dreams and aspirations of a better life. And like many migrants, he had friends and soon made his way to Queensland to cut cane and then the steelworks at Port Kembla.
My mother too arrived at this wharf in 1959. She often mentioned the joy here, of being united with her fiancée of 13 years whom she married soon after arriving in Australia.
But many migrants arrived here alone, with no one, and Co.As.It. was there to help them, as it is still helping our community 50 years later.
It is an organisation that truly embodies the spirit of so many that it helped. The spirit of determination, of the will to meet whatever many challenges and the needs of so many.
Today you embody the success of the Italo-Australian community. But your work is not done. It continues and we are all very proud to continue in our support.
- Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7110
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555