In many cases, the grandfather provided for the family while the grandmother worked tirelessly to take care of the house and the children.
Generally speaking, the Australian government recognises the great social and economic contributions made by post-war migrants, but there is a tendency to forget those who, in one way or another, allowed workers and their families to stay and live in this country: the women.
In those times, looking after the house and raising children was different and, lacking some of the resources we enjoy today, being a single parent was incredibility difficult, if not impossible.
While the concept of marriage was differentthen, and many couples married by proxy or out of convenience, men often sought someone to take care of the family while many women wanted to leave their parents’ home.
The easiest and most socially acceptable way to do so was to get married.
On Thursday, April 26, Co.As.It. will explore and unveil the role and power of women in the context of migration in a symposium entitled ‘Migration: Women and Resilience’.
Part of the National Trust of Australia - Victoria’s (NTAV) 2018 Australian Heritage Festival Program, the symposium will give voice to women of different cultural backgrounds who will discuss the theme from different perspectives.
Participants will include women of Italian, Greek, German, Kurdish, Sri Lankan and Taiwanese heritage, all offering varying experiences and ideas.
Representing Italian migration are Lina Cinanni and her daughter-in-law Effie Cinanni.
Hailing from the Calabrian town of Soveria Mannelli, Lina’s parents arrived in Australia at different times during 1951.
Her mother was pregnant and, not knowing what to expect from Australia, her father decided to make the voyage first to ensure they had a place to live and albeit precarious, safety for his wife and unborn child.
They spent their first months in Australia settling into the then desolate city of Werribee.
“My mother suffered greatly during that time because she spent most of her days alone while my father worked, and she was surrounded by nothing but paddocks and farms,” Lina says.
The couple soon moved to Melbourne, where they settled definitively and build a family.
Lina describes her mother as a strong woman who dedicated herself entirely to her house and her family.
It’s not unusual to hear of a mother who cooks, cleans, gardens and raises children, but we often fail to see the entire picture.
“I didn’t wear bought clothes until the age of 17 because my mother sewed and made all of our clothes growing up,” Lina recalls.
The amount of money a family could save just by doing this is immeasurable.
Another hidden aspect is the psychology of these women, of their suffering and, more importantly, of their resilience.
“My mother struggled and suffered more than my father,” Lina explains, painting a similar picture to that of many women in the same situation during that era.
Over time, Lina has collected material for a memoir she is writing of her mother and her family.
Her daughter-in-law Effie, whose family is Greek but have a similar migrant story, decided to help Lina and ensured that she was included in Lella Cariddi’s book on migration.
The question is, if women didn’t follow their husbands to a new land, would those men have remained here?
Would they have gone on to build a family here?
And, above all, would what have happened to the hundreds of diverse cultures which call Melbourne and wider Australia home today?
‘Migration: Women and Resilience’ is currently booked out. To go on the waiting list, send an email of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.