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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Cultural Studies »

Maria Tence on social life amongst the Italian community

Mara Moustafine and Maria Tence.

Early settlement issues for migrant families were fairly similar across the board, recalls Maria Tence, who describes the emergence of a slightly more liberated teen-culture among young Italians in Melbourne.



Date Added:

06 April 2009


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There wasn’t a social life really, I mean Italians were a fairly gregarious people and they kept company amongst themselves, you know, I do recall there was a lot of dancing and, you know, homemade wine and homemade prosciutto and people would bring things and make their own company and their own fun and – but there wasn’t a – you know a social life as such until the cinemas started and you know, I remember Italians travelling from Oakleigh to go to Brunswick to see the Italian cinemas, and then one started in Dandenong, so we went – we went to that.


But my parents used to love going to wrestling, you know, seeing Mario Milano and all that. That was a – something they enjoyed and the whole family went of course. And then as the community grew and you know, accommodation wasn’t an issue and the children were all at school and they started grappling with the language, they started forming groups. Social groups. And my parents for – my parents’ group formed a club called the Valguarnera Social Club. Because that’s the little town that we came from.


And it was quite an active group. We held dances. That’s so the children that were growing up had company and you know, the boys could meet the girls and – and marry and we used to hold dances at the Richmond Town Hall and the – Aeolian Club in Carlton. So we’d come from all over different pockets of Melbourne, there was a little pocket of us in Oakleigh, another pocket in Clayton, a pocket in Preston and we’d all gather at these social dances to ensure that of course, the kids could meet.


A lot of them did, yes. A lot of the earlier ones, the generation before me, yes, absolutely. It was the matchmaking sort of part of the social life and yes, they did marry and start their families that way. By the time it got to me, the boys had found interest in Australian girls. So the social dances where – were interesting in that there were a lot of girls, my peers and contemporaries but the boys had found other interests in Australian girls and Australian dances. So we were dancing you know, with our dads and uncles.


And that’s when it sort of really just didn’t work, from that time because the – Italian boys were, you know, marrying out in my generation so we had to try and find entertainment outside that social setting. So, trying to get permission from Mum and Dad to go to other dances, was very, very hard. We had dances being organised by the Italian parish priest in the area, Father Julian and you know, obviously some families wouldn’t let their daughters go, I mean, I wasn’t allowed to go for a long time, and then so when the San Remo ballroom was happening, which was a really big gathering point for the Italian community, look it took a lot of begging to get to go to one of those.


And being very, very good and doing a lot of housework. So I could score the points. The boys would be Italian boys, you know, a little bit more liberated you might say, you know, that Italian boys who wanted to meet Italian girls without the chaperoning of the mother and father behind them. So the mentality started to change, the accepting the fact that we lived in a more liberated society, and that there were more opportunities to meet other people and do other things. That started to impact on that closed, Italian cultural mentality where everything had to be supervised, everything had to be chaperoned, that started to gradually change.


End transcript