Most days Perth man Franco Smargiassi gets out and about, walking in his local community area. The president of the WA Multicultural Association is always delighted when he meets people from other countries, he tells Have a Go News.
“The other day in my walk I chatted with a man originally from Punjab in India and then a lady from Durban in South Africa, whose ancestors were of French origin. The richness of culture around us is amazing.”
Franco is involved with an inspiring organisation which had its beginnings in 2013.
“I belonged to the Abruzzese Emigrant Association of Australia which, in 2007, inaugurated Perth’s tallest monument dedicated to migrants at Ozone Reserve on the Perth Esplanade.
“Following that project the president, Albert Di Lallo, suggested building a pavilion next to the monument but the vice-president said funds would be harder to find because of the then economic downturn. As treasurer I suggested that as the monument was built mainly from funds by people from Abruzzo why don’t we make the pavilion a broader based community project so we can invite people from other cultures to give a hand.
“They agreed, we had a meeting and invited various people from other cultures – Greek, Filipino, Cambodian and Vietnamese – and we created a sub-group which went about fundraising. In 2014 we inaugurated the building and handed it over to the City of Perth.
“Then I thought, we have a lovely group of people here, why don’t we create an association, the WA Multicultural Association, which we did. We are an emerging organisation trying to make a contribution, particularly in cultural maintenance.”
Franco says the association is rather unusual in a sense. Perth has a much older organisation, the Ethnic Communities Council of WA whose function is largely an advocacy body to look after the welfare and issues dealing with migrants and multiculturalism.
“Our association’s fundamental idea is first to promote educational, cultural and community based events, and encourage the retention of the richness of the various cultures we have, to maintain their traditions and languages and be proud of it. The second is to encourage people to get together and share this richness.”
Community life seems to be declining in normal times, so when life gets back to a normal healthy situation let’s have a coffee in each other’s.Franco Smargiassi
We have organised five multicultural youth talent quests involving primary and high school children singing, dancing and playing instruments; it’s beautiful to see children performing in their traditional culture.
“But now we don’t know if we can put on the sixth multicultural youth talent quest, planned for Sunday, 11 October because of the pandemic. Our main aim is to keep the community aware of these festivals, we send out daily emails about events of an educational and cultural nature happening in Perth and encourage people to attend.”
Franco says the association is in the process of renting rooms at its headquarters at Tuart College in Tuart Hill which closed its doors to education in 2018
Italian born Franco who moved to WA with his parents and siblings in the 1950s, has a community background, starting Albany Community Radio 6ACR in 1994, delivering an Italian program and another on music around the world. He now runs an online radio station from home.
“The idea is to move the station to Tuart College to make it into a community, multi-cultural station where people from different backgrounds can speak about their culture, their presence and activities in WA and inform people of events.”
Franco laments that globalisation is setting aside many of our wonderful traditions, including those enjoyed by Australians which he once experienced.
“When I go for a walk to give my body some exercise, I greet people from a distance, and it’s a real pleasure to meet people from all sorts of interesting cultures who live in the area. I also have a substantial list of friends from around the world that I have met on my travels.
“Most Sundays, I send out emails with the various multicultural events that I enjoyed (pre COVID-19 of course, unfortunately in recent times there have been none) and lots of jokes… especially about the situation lately and they can get some good laughs about it.”
“It is sad this pandemic has happened, especially for people affected by it. Let us collaborate and work together. Community life seems to be declining in normal times, so when life gets back to a normal healthy situation let’s have a coffee in each other’s.”