Riverland Italian Community

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE (Chaffey—Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development) (15:23): I would like to speak about a local event in Chaffey over the weekend and also thank the member for Light for his presence up there for the unveiling of the Italian migrants statue in the main street, in Vaughan Terrace, up at Berri. It was a cold, brisk Saturday morning, but it was a really good commemoration of some of the migrants who had moved into the Riverland over many years.

We all know that Italian immigrants came to Australia many years ago, generations ago—in some instances, five generations ago. In particular, they saw an opportunity to come up to the Riverland and start a new life. They saw opportunity up in the Riverland to go back to their grassroots, their agricultural heritage and look at ways in which they could start a new future, start a new life. Some of them came over with their family groups, and some stayed and some left. For those who stayed, Saturday morning was to commemorate and celebrate their Italian ancestry, the immigration and the hard work they did to get to the Riverland, to get to Australia. I would like to pay homage to those immigrants, who really did it the hard way.

Once they got to some of those Riverland towns, the irrigation districts, they saw opportunity, just like the statue of the Italian immigrant that looks down the main street of Berri. At the end of the main street of Berri is the River Murray, and nothing is more important; it is the lifeline of the Riverland's economy, of South Australia's economy in many instances. Those Italian immigrants looked around, saw opportunities, put their heads down and away they went. Today, we enjoy the input of those immigrants to our local economy. As I said, they are fourth or fifth generation and a great part of the Riverland's history, and no more so than the history that was unveiled on the weekend.

I would like to thank Mario for his persistence with the Riverland Italian Community Association. Mario Morena is part of a longstanding Italian immigrant family in the Riverland, a family that is an example of hard work and dedication and of what it can mean to a regional community such as the Riverland. I moved to the Riverland in the late eighties, and what it showed me was the opportunities up there. When I migrated from Adelaide to Renmark, it showed me that anyone who is dedicated, anyone who is passionate, who has commitment to a region or an industry, if they work hard they can succeed through adversity, they can make it work.

Today, we enjoy the leadership of some of our Italian elders, and we enjoy the leadership of some of our Italian businesspeople, our Italian families and the Italian culture that everyone in the Riverland enjoys. Something that also buoys me when I am getting around the electorate is the camaraderie and multiculturalism. Not only the Italians but also the Greeks, the Turks, the Indians, the Vietnamese, other Asian people, Australians, New Zealanders, English and Europeans all come together from all different regions, and most of the time they come together for community events. They come together and share conversation, they share their experiences, they share work knowledge.

The Riverland is made up of communities, and the reason they are successful is that not only do they share that experience but they also share the knowledge to prosper. They share the knowledge and the passion, and that is something that the Italians do so well. We all know that the Italian culture is very buoyant; it is no more salient than many other cultures in the world, but I will say that the unveiling of the Italian immigrant statue in Berri was a great day. It is a statue that I would like to think every Italian immigrant will take their descendants to and tell them a story about the great immigrants who came to the Riverland.

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