Migrant Nation: Josephine’s Story

Writer: Alexander Nuccio

 

Imagine you’re just eleven years old. Imagine your parents telling you that you’re about to move to another country. A country which you have no knowledge of. A country where no one speaks the same language as you. A country on the other side of the world. A country with opposite seasons, odd temperatures and a completely different culture. How would you be feeling? What would you be thinking? Leaving your friends behind. The whole eleven years of your life swept into change. This happened to my mother, and I have no first hand experiences of my own comparable. I interviewed her to get an insight.

The first thing you notice about Josephine Nuccio is that she has no foreign accent at all. If you didn’t know any better you would guess that she was born here and lived here her whole life. Josephine came to Australia in 1966 at the tender age of eleven and a half, as she recalls. A year earlier in Italy, Josephine’s mum had told her that they were moving to Australia. Josephine was stunned, she didn’t even know anything about Australia; ‘I thought it was a fairyland, like a Wizard of Oz land’. Josephine, her mother and older brother were opposed to the idea of leaving, but on the insistence of their father, they packed their trunks and boarded a ship filled with 996 other people, looking to start a new life in a new country.

I can’t imagine what it would feel like, being completely uprooted from your life and taken to a country that would almost certainly feel like another planet; not speaking the same language and not even knowing what to expect. Sitting here though, in a house full of amenities, we can both see it was worth it.

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to have a background other than just ‘Australian’, and sometimes considered boring not to. Growing up with these differing environments allowed me to appreciate the two diverse cultures. Even though I’m born here in Australia, I can acknowledge and have an affiliation with my Italian ancestry. Government policies have changed to reduce the number of foreign migrants moving to Australia, making it harder for foreigners to get permanent residency status. The majority of the population are pushing against people seeking new pastures. People are trying to move to Australia because they’re unable to live a comfortable life in the country of their origin and aim to give their children and grandchildren better lives. Maybe with hindsight, these same Australian purists will see their folly.

My nonno’s decision to uproot his family and move them to a foreign country in search of better opportunities proved fruitful. He and his wife settled in quickly, finding work and a home in the suburb of Moonee Ponds. Josephine made friends easily at school, and receiving extra classes for English, Josephine soon garnered a grasp on the language. Josephine still didn’t think fondly of Australia because she missed home.

Whilst I’m interviewing my mother, other stories of my friend’s parents and grandparents who have migrated to Australia fill my thoughts. My friend’s nonno moved to Australia, much like many of the other migrants looking for a new set of opportunities. He started his own picture frame manufacturing business out of his garage, which is now run by his children and is a multimillion dollar international company. His entire family is now better off for his decision to move to Australia, and noticeably humbled by the wealth this created. Italy is now a country with great economic strain, with an unemployment rate of 12.6%, many of the country’s younger generation are fleeing the country to pursue better job prospects and achieve greater potential.

Who’s to say what lies in the future for immigration in Australia, but with many countries across Europe faltering, more people will be fleeing, with Australia seeming like a prosperous destination. Josephine concludes our nostalgic interview saying, ‘It all worked out well in the end. Look how good you and your brothers turned out’.

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