Grievance Debate - Giovanni 'John' Bueti

Wednesday March 31, 2021

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (16:10): Mount Gambier is home to a proud and passionate group of residents of multicultural heritage. They have made the city their home, raised their families and kept different cultures alive in our community. A man who deeply understood the migrant cause was the late Giovanni 'John' Bueti, who passed away just a few years ago.

Born in Reggio, Calabria, he arrived in Mount Gambier in 1954 and admitted he was so homesick that he cried himself to sleep for months after arriving, but he chose to embrace his new city and within two decades he had established himself as one of our city's biggest community and business leaders. He joined the local Rotary club, founded the Italo Australian Club and bought the Mount Gambier Central Caravan Park.

When he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his community work in 2014 at the age of 83, he spoke about how passionately he felt about Mount Gambier. The father of five said it was truly humbling to be recognised by the community. He said:

I have spent the past 60 years living here and I really wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

It's a town which has given me and my extended family so much and it's been an honour to be able to contribute to the region with my various business and community pursuits.

I would like to dedicate this award to all of those people who were born here and those who have come from afar and who have worked together to create such a strong sense of community in Mount Gambier.

There is a great photo of Giovanni carrying an old brown suitcase he arrived in Mount Gambier with. In 2004, this photo was then turned into a statue called Memories in a Suitcase. That suitcase is a lasting symbol of a long journey many migrants endured on their way to Australia. I would like to think that Giovanni played a major role in changing the way migrants are welcomed to Mount Gambier today.

In 2004, 60 community members came together to explore the experiences of migrants travelling to Australia and in particular to Mount Gambier. This group developed a brief to commission a physical monument that captured their experiences and stories for all to share and understand. That group is the reason that, outside the Mount Gambier Civic Centre, there is an artwork known as Memories in a Suitcase.

The suitcase is a symbol of transition for many migrants from an old life to a new life, carrying everything of value from the past to a new future. Mount Gambier would not be the city it is today without the valuable contribution of our migrants. This is certainly true of our Italian community, which has the Italian soccer club, one of the most successful soccer clubs in our region. In fact, every year it is a surprise if the Italian soccer club does not win the A-grade, the B-grade, the under 17s and so on.

When you go to the Italo Australian Club, you see an amazing community where the nonnas are in the kitchen making some of the best pasta you will ever eat—$10 for a bowl of pasta you could not eat in two sittings. All the money is donated back into the soccer club. The club was built by the bricklayers, the concreters and the tradesmen of the Italian community and now boasts two pitches, lights and certainly the best facilities in our region. It goes to show what a strong, vibrant Italian community brings to a community like Mount Gambier, sharing in the rich history of their ancestry and bringing it into Mount Gambier and the culture of Mount Gambier.

It was a real pleasure to know John Bueti. I had just been elected in 2014, so I was at the OAM ceremony and it was a real pleasure to see him being awarded in recognition of his great service to our community.