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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Sociology »

Maria Tence on Italian community organisations

Mara Moustafine and Maria Tence.

Museum curator Maria Tence describes the development of Italian community organisations.



Date Added:

06 April 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

7.9 MB






The Italian community in the ‘60s, because of the mass migration, because of the high numbers that were here and because of the lack of services available not only to Italians but all migrants, and because of the riots that had happened at Bonegilla during the two Australian recession periods, 1952 and 1960, the Italian Government saw it was important for it to take care of its citizens, because they were still Italian citizens at that point in time.


So the Italian Government through the consular bodies, made available money, for the support of the Italian community, through language, welfare and culture. Parliament, Italian Parliament passed a legislation to allow money from Italy to come to Australia and a group like Co.As.It was formed out of that money. FILEF was formed as a working – as a working organisation, as a Labor – more Labor organisation. So yes, that wasn’t until the ‘70s though. So in the Italian community in the ‘60s, you had for example Mrs Lina Santaspirito, who was known as La Mama of the Italian community. Who was connected to the church, who did a lot of welfare work and tried to help the Italians who were in despair here. You know it wasn’t all a happy experience.


She had – she was part of the community that had come at the turn of the century and she formed a little group of women who were helping the Italian community with welfare needs. The work that she did, together with Mrs Zelda Vaccaro who was also another strong Italian woman, Co.As.It as a welfare organisation was formed.


Then FILEF came in much later as an organisation to help the Italian worker in the factory, as more of a – a union. Because in Italy at the time, unions started getting a stronghold in factories. And so I suspect that that was a response to what was happening in Italy as well. And so we had – there are two organisations that were supporting the Italian community. One was a more conservative one, basically ensuring that their welfare needs were being taken care of and the education and culture, whereas FILEF was more to do with the rights of the worker.


End transcript