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Giuseppe Minniti, Italian Migrant, 1950

Travelling Case

Image: Travelling Case

Source: Museum Victoria

Giuseppe Giovanni Minniti was born in Limpidi Calabria, Italy on 9 February 1931. Limpidi was an agricultural area with a variety of industries including olive groves, grape vines, and vegetable produce. Giuseppe's father, a barber by trade, had been in the army during World War I. He was wounded in battle but eventually died one month before Giuseppe was born. Giuseppe also had an older sister, Maria, born in 1921. Remaining a widow, Giuseppe's mother had to raise her children alone through tough times.

Giuseppe's family produced wine, olive oil and vegetables as a source of income. With so much produce to harvest and process, local villagers were hired by Giuseppe's mother who managed all their trading with the purchasing merchants.

After World War II, Giuseppe was very apprehensive about being called up for national service in Yugoslavia so he explored his options to emigrate. He could have gone to Argentina but preferred to go to Australia. He made the small suitcase in a hurry in order to please friends and relatives who had requested he carry items to take with him to people in Melbourne. He had another trunk to transport his own personal belongings.

Giuseppe departed from Messina, Italy on the ship 'Sebastiano Caboto' on 23 March 1950. The route went via the Suez Canal and Giuseppe travelled alone. He arrived at Victoria Dock, Melbourne on 22 April 1950 after a terrible bay crossing and was relieved to arrive safely. He was met by a local couple who accommodated him at their house in George Street, Fitzroy (along with five others, including relatives who had arrived in 1927). Within four days of his arrival, Giuseppe had already located himself in the town of Korumburra in South Gippsland where he worked as a farm hand. Almost three months later, Giuseppe moved back to Melbourne and commenced a new job at the Windsor Smith shoe factory in Johnston Street, Fitzroy. It was at this time that his name was anglicised to John (from his middle name Giovanni).

Giuseppe (John) worked for the Victorian Railways at Footscray Station for eight years. Here he became leading hand and was working 13 hour shifts with one day off. Giuseppe (John) purchased a house in Footscray and rented out rooms to two other men. At this time he also had an informal barber's outlet from home where he cut hair for family, friends and neighbours. John had always wanted to be an engineer and he undertook and completed a course at the Railway Institute in Footscray. He purchased a larger house in Maldon Street Footscray and married his wife Giulia (Julie) on 24 January 1959. She had migrated from Italy aboard the 'Sorriento' on the 12 July 1954, arriving on 8 August 1954. Giuseppe's (John's) mother came out from Italy for the wedding, arriving in 1958 and staying for six months; she loved her stay in Melbourne and quite probably would have remained but for her daughter and family still in Limpidi who were by then residing in the family home.

From 1967 Giuseppe (John) and Giulia (Julie) ran a milk bar for seven years and then Giuseppe (John) worked for Repco for the rest of his working life. They had four children born in 1959, 1961, 1964 and 1971 and have eight grandchildren. In 1974 the whole family returned to Italy for a visit. Giuseppe (John) states that he has never regretted migrating to Australia.

He passed away on 29 May 2013.

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