I arrived in Melbourne 60 years ago: October 18, 1957 to be exact. I had a small suitcase with me holding few personal effects and a whole lot of dreams. Destination: Bonegilla.
Two years later, on November 4, 1959, the first edition of IL GLOBO was published in Melbourne and distributed in every state of Australia. It was the beginning of a new weekly newspaper for Italians living in Australia. It bore my name as Founder and Editor.
Since then, 58 years have passed; 58 long years.
The time has now come for me to hang up my boots and leave the management of this media organisation and my position on the Board of Directors to somebody that will know how to carry on what he has inherited and will be able to set new goals to achieve in the future. That person is my son, Julius Larobina.
In my moment of retirement, my thoughts wander back to the beginning of my editorial adventure and more specifically, to Tarcisio (Terry) Valmorbida. Tarcisio had already immersed himself into the Italo Australian business world by 1959. I shared my project with him and he decided to leave his family business, which was involved in the distribution of food products, to help fund the new Italian-language weekly.
But Tarcisio didn’t just make a financial commitment. Together we prepared every intricate detail of the project: we opened an office with a linotype, hired a small group of employees, engaged a printing company and organised distribution of the newspaper in every Australian state with correspondents in all the capital cities. But above all, it was important for us to meet and speak with the future readers especially in Victoria and NSW, to discover what exactly they wanted to read about. We had to meticulously anticipate all of the necessities to succeed in the enterprise and disprove the pessimism of many sceptics.
The positive reaction to our first edition confirmed that we were on the right track. But we did not delude ourselves and we did not claim victory. We knew very well that it would be a long road and that we had to improve the quality and quantity of information, the presentation of the newspaper.
Tarcisio left me after some years to pursue new interesting business enterprises, and his brothers Carlo, Mariano and Saverio bought his share in the business. Following the second generation of Valmorbidas, members of the third and fourth generations became part of the Board of Directors: Adriano, then Luisa, David and Luca. I thank all of them for their collaboration and support.
It feels like just yesterday, but 58 years have gone by. In all these years we have had a great number of employees and collaborators who have contributed to the success of this media company, a number which grew with the acquisition of LA FIAMMA in 1978 and the first radio frequencies in 1994. It is impossible to name everyone, but I thank all of them for their valuable contributions.
I must make two exceptions: Zeno Dardi, a friend who stood close by me before and after the paper’s launch, and Nino Randazzo, whom our readers know well for his notable journalistic contribution and for becoming editor of IL GLOBO after the acquisition of LA FIAMMA.
Nino Randazzo ended his career in journalism brilliantly after becoming elected to the Italian Senate by Italians in Australia and the relevant constituency abroad in the 2006 Italian general elections.
Finally, I’d like to remember my family: my wife Lindy, born in Australia but an adopted Italian, who stood close to me allowing herself to be seduced by the Italian language, traditions and culture. And my three children - Nicoletta, Marco and Julius - who have given me seven beautiful grandchildren, all proud of their strong connection to Italy.
Following the usual Christmas break, IL GLOBO and LA FIAMMA will recommence publication every Monday and Thursday under the editorship of Dario Nelli, who can count on a talented team of colleagues.
In the future, I hope to “silently retrace” the most interesting moments and events of my working life. So much work, so many problems, but also so much satisfaction! I don’t believe I am exaggerating when I say the commitment to that first edition has been maintained, despite communication difficulties in the early years due to the distance between Italy and Australia.
We began by committing to offer our readers a weekly overview of Italian, Australian and international affairs, including serialised exposés and sports results and reports, focusing on the Italian Football Championship.
We certainly kept our promise!
We have also maintained our commitment to replacing the “piazza del paese”. That is, to circulate local information of direct interest to the mass of our readers. We have assumed the responsibility of being spokespeople for our countrymen and in doing this, we have facilitated the formation of local, regional, and provincial clubs and associations; we publish a weekly calendar of their recreational activities and social and religious celebrations. I am sure that this commitment will be maintained in the future because a newspaper for Italians abroad has to not only provide information, but also build a link between the various facets of our communities.
IL GLOBO has been at the heart of the Italian community in every important situation: to courageously defend it from attacks by the Australian media, always ready to lift the veil on organised crime; and to launch a “Miss Italian Community Quest” in Victoria which raised funds for Australian and Italian charities. Most notably, The Spastic Children’s Society benefited from the “Miss Australia Quest”, which demonstrated the Italian community’s generosity on the national stage.
IL GLOBO and LA FIAMMA have organised - and still organise - fundraising appeals for victims of earthquakes, fires, floods and other natural disasters both in Italy and Australia. On every single occasion, the Italian community has responded with generosity. I could go on forever. Instead, I would prefer to emphasise how important it is that the Italian community continues to have a voice in the years to come. A strong, authoritative voice in both Italian and English, in print and digital forms.
There’s no doubt that Italians who arrived in Australia last century - both before World War II and after, during the migration wave of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s - have made an outstanding contribution to Australian society. Italian migrants have integrated into Australian life while still maintaining their culture, traditions, dialects and the beautiful Italian language. There is too much emphasis placed on the diffusion of pizza, spaghetti and the optimal Italian cuisine in general: and rightly so! Unfortunately, there is not enough credit given to the contribution of past and present generations to agriculture, building, mining, fashion, music, science, politics and “lifestyle”.
But without doubt, the most beautiful and important contribution is that of giving life to second, third and fourth generations who “feel, appreciate and now seek to rediscover and show their Italian origins”. In recent years we have seen social gathering initiatives between professionals, industry leaders, businessmen and sports stars of Italian heritage who wish to meet and possibly exchange business cards for future encounters. We hope that these initiatives continue to multiply, and they must be encouraged and supported. We should also constantly encourage young people to participate in their parents’ clubs so that they can take over after the last elderly member passes away. This way, they can make better use of real estate assets which would otherwise disappear into the hands of developers, as has unfortunately already happened.
Before I conclude this letter, my thoughts and gratitude go out to all the first generation Italo-Australians: to those who have sadly left us, to those who are passing their final years in one of the many aged care homes, and to those who still manage to move around breathing life into the social activities of Italian associations.
I wish to also thank all of the readers of IL GLOBO and LA FIAMMA and the listeners of Rete Italia for having followed and supported us; the businesses which have advertised to Italian families; and, finally, all of the Italians who have collaborated with us for the success of community initiatives.
And to the youth – both ITALIAN and those with ITALIAN HERITAGE – best wishes for a splendid future!