Speech to Toscana Social Club


Grazie Renato.

Mi Chiamo Pietro Khalil, Io sono il Deputato di seggio di Wills.  Io parlo Italiano ma non parlo bene allora….. Finito in englesi!

Thank you very much for having me here today Renato. I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to their elders, past and present. And I want to acknowledge, too, the Mayor of the City of Moreland, Councillor Nattalie Abboud who is here with us today.

And of course acknowledge Dr Pierluigi Trombetta, the Consul-General of Italy and his wife who are here with us today. You’ve got the good diplomatic post in Melbourne, because Canberra is a bit more boring! So you’re a very, very lucky man. And your wife is lucky too, so congratulations. I see Pierluigi at the soccer, so we’re good friends.

I also want thank Renato Paoli, the president of the Toscana Social Club. It is really a fantastic club that you have. It has such a rich history and it’s wonderful that in its 50th year since its foundation, the Toscana Club is still an important meeting place for all the Tuscans in Melbourne and other Italians. There’s some people here – John, I’m sitting next to, who is a member of the Veneto club – so you allow others to come in as well, so it’s very inclusive. Well done.

Anyone can come and you’ve still got 300 families who are registered here so it’s a really wonderful achievement for the club.

These clubs, and there’s many of them, for many of our migrant community, especially that first generation migrants that came to Australia. They’re very important places. They’re important because they allow communities to be in touch with each other, to share, obviously, the history they’ve had, the traditions, the culture, language and memories as well of their time here in Australia, or even before they came to Australia, in the mother country.

It really is important to maintain those traditions and I appreciate that as a migrant myself. My parents migrated here 49 years ago, from Egypt. And they came here for a better life. To give my sister and I a better life in this country.

I’m a very passionate supporter of multiculturalism. I worked for SBS, I was a Victorian Multicultural Commissioner. Because the migrants that have come to this country… and you are here representative of a very important group of migrants from Italy, particularly in the post-war period. You effectively built this country. You did and your children and now you’ve got grandchildren here who have made an enormous contribution to Australia.

Australia wouldn’t be what it is without the Italian-Australians. That’s reality. And there’s another important thing that you should all be aware of and this is what I say to people of many migrant communities. You don’t have to choose between your identities. You can be proud to be Italian background and you can be proud of your culture, you can be proud of your heritage and that is what it is to be an Australian.

We can be proud of our ethnicity, our culture, our language, our background. Because that’s what it is to be Australian. That’s why multiculturalism works in this country. We’re not forced to choose. And that’s an important thing that is somewhat under attack in the time that we’re in at the moment.

Because being a good Australian has nothing to do with your faith, your ethnicity, your post code. It has nothing to with those things. It has everything to do with what’s in your heart. It’s got everything to do with the kindness and the love that you express to your fellow human beings and to your fellow citizens. That’s what it means to be a good Australian.

And coming from Italy and Greece and Egypt and Lebanon and all the countries that have migrated to this country, we’ve brought with them not just food — I get sick and tired of multiculturalism, everyone says food, food, food – you know what, it’s great. But it’s not just about food. It’s about culture. It’s about the traditions. It’s about the values that you’ve brought with you to this country. What you’ve bequeathed to this country to  make it what it is. That’s what we should be celebrating and that’s what’s important. We don’t have to choose.

And we’re here to celebrate what we think is a very good Australian, a great Australian, a great Italian-Australian. Carlo.

Carlo Travaglini, well done. Congratulazioni. You are an example of an Australian who, as I said, expresses their love, their kindness, their care for others in their community service.

Some of the examples that Renato was talking about. They demonstrate what they’ve given to others. Your friends and your family or even just your local community. You go all the way to the other side of the world to Rwanda to do good works. To help make better people’s lives who need that help. And that is to be congratulated. And it is very fitting that the Republic of Italy is awarding you with the Cavaliere della Repubblica because you deserve it, obviously. You’re building up all these awards now. I don’t know where you’re going to put them all. But you deserve it and we really are here to celebrate your commitment, your passion and your contribution to this community.

So it’s a great pleasure for me to be here, to know that even I have in my electorate that I represent, because I represent Brunswick and Coburg and Pascoe Vale and Fawkner and Glenroy and Hadfield. A lot of Italians in my area, actually. 17, 18 per cent Italians in my electorate of Wills. I’m very happy and very proud to represent that community and to have someone like Carlo Travaglini living in my area. And I really want to congratulate him for his great work. And as the Federal Member of Parliament to officially extend my appreciation and acknowledge his hard work and all of your hard work in what you’ve done to build this country into what it is today and to give the lives of your children and grandchildren such a wonderful life in Australia.

Thank you. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your contribution. Molto grazie!