Mr Migliorino was recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List, being appointed Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia “for significant service to the Italian community, to multicultural and refugee settlement assistance groups, and through advisory roles”.
“I feel proud that this honour recognises a whole lot of work that’s been done in the communities that I’ve been involved with, above all the Italian community and the broader multicultural community,” Mr Migliorino said.
“It’s not just what you do, it’s also what you’re allowed to do; I’m privileged to have had a community that has allowed me to take a leadership role and a supportive family which has been there for me.”
It’s not the first time that Mr Migliorino has been recognised at such a high level, and in 2009, the Italian government honoured him with the title of Commendatore (Knight Commander) for his work with the Italian community in Australia.
Having been involved with Co.As.It. in Sydney for decades, first as a member of various committees, then on the board and as the organisation’s president, Mr Migliorino was a driving force in the establishment of the Italian Bilingual School in 2002 and has also helped build an aged-care program targeted towards the Italian community.
Mr Migliorino describes the trajectory of Co.As.It. as an “interesting” one, because it was originally founded as a support service to new Italian migrants in the 1960s and early 1970s and has evolved over the years along with the community it was originally intended to serve.
As the years went by and the people the organisation was serving grew older and began to pass away, Co.As.It. had to question its purpose in rapidly changing times.
The idea of a bilingual school was the result of this reflection.
“I picked up from my predecessor, Commendatore Joe Fin, at the time when we moved from an idea to implementation,” Mr Migliorino recalled.
“Co.As.It. went very much out on a limb and had to convince the Italian government to support it as well as the Australian authorities that we could actually start up a bona fide school.”
Mr Migliorino puts one of his proudest moments down to when he visited the bilingual school with the then Italian Consul in Sydney on its first day of opening.
On that day, the school had six students who were taught in a couple of classrooms at the local primary school.
Fifteen years later, the school has now moved to its own property, a pre-existing school, and teaches a contemporary curriculum in two languages to around 150 students from Prep to Grade 6.
Mr Migliorino explains that the school is made up of an almost perfect balance of children with Italian heritage and children with no Italian blood whatsoever, and takes delight in the great interest generated around his mother tongue.
“It’s nice to have provided something which is really successful in not just maintaining but promoting Italian, especially in a time when it’s all about economic languages and building premium on English.”
Providing language support is something close to Mr Migliorino’s heart, as he was forced to repeat kindergarten due to the lack of support he received as a little boy whose first language was Italian and who was living in an English-speaking country.
Hailing from Grumo Appula near Bari in Apulia, Mr Migliorino migrated to Australia in 1964 with his parents and siblings, in what he describes as a typical case of “chain migration”.
His mother was the eldest of nine children, and one of her brothers courageously ventured to Australia at 16 years of age to see whether this new foreign land was capable of providing a more prosperous life.
The rest of the family gradually followed in his footsteps, and when Mr Migliorino was five, his parents decided to jump on board (literally) and join them.
They had a relatively rocky start in Australia, arriving in the Sydney suburb of St Peters and living in a small terrace as a family of 15, made up almost entirely of males.
“We very much benefited from the recent arrival support we got from the extended family, and we were eventually able to buy our own house,” Mr Migliorino recalled.
Having grown up in a family that immigrated for economic reasons, Mr Migliorino developed a sense of duty to become successful and maximise the opportunities he had been given.
“There was a certain expectation, especially from my own parents who had limited education and were very keen for us to do things that they weren’t able to do,” he explained.
“There has been an ongoing responsibility to pay back and justify their migration in a way.”
Having also served as Director of the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a member of the Sydney Florence Sister City Committee, Mr Migliorino has certainly made his family proud, contributing to Australian society while honouring his Italian heritage.
However, Mr Migliorino’s work extends far beyond the Italian community, which served as a gateway to myriad other groups, and over the past decade he has advocated for various ethnic communities and multiculturalism in general.
He has spent time on the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW (ECC) and as Chairperson of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA), and is the Founding Chair and Managing Director of Cultural Perspectives, a multicultural marketing and communication company focused on connecting people, communities and organisations through the lens of diversity.
Mr Migliorino has passionately played a prominent role in the broader debate around Australian identity and the value of migrants in recent years, especially with the Turnbull government’s recent attempt at a citizenship overhaul, as the son of people who would never have passed the proposed English language test.
“I think we have to know that as Australians, we will continually be defined by our diversity and I can’t see us going back to any sense of a monocultural society,” he said.
An integral member of the multicultural community in Australia, Mr Migliorino is a strong believer that establishing yourself in another country is not just about economic factors; it’s also about how much you feel part of the broader society.
Now, with his Queen’s Birthday Honour, Mr Migliorino can be surer than ever that he has not only become part of the Australian community, but he has brought many diverse groups together to make a profound difference on a national level.