A Voice for Diversity and Inclusion
From Rome to Melbourne, Emiliano Zucchi's journey as a migrant has provided him with an appreciation of diversity and equity that has helped shape his role as a community leader.
Emiliano Zucchi migrated to Australia with his family at the age of 12, not an easy age to be transplanted across the globe. Knowing no one and without any real familiarity with English, he found himself having to somehow make sense of a reality in a new country. This life-pivoting moment stemmed from a Zucchi family Australian holiday, and his parents making the decision to leave Rome and all they were familiar with to move to the Australian continent in the mid-1980s.
So began Emiliano's experience of migration, which, as it has turned out, has provided him with insights to draw on as part of his successful career in various community leadership roles.
Emiliano recalls that it wasn't until he was at university that things started to make sense about Australian life. Above all, he delighted in the diversity that made Australian life: "so unique and so liberating, from being able to try the cuisine of various cultures to coming to understand more about the role of cultural identity and how important it is to social cohesion."
Emiliano is quick to point out that diversity has always been a feature of Australia's makeup:
There were over 500 different Aboriginal nations or clans at the time of colonization, and that is just the start of Australia's cultural richness. I have never accepted that we have one culture. We each have our own culture and we share this. I was never comfortable with the notion of a melting pot; that creates the impression of a bland mess. I am certainly proud of my Italian heritage, but my identity is incomplete without all the other multicultural identities that make up Australia.
Emiliano started his career as an academic sharing Italian language and culture with his students. He has also enjoyed learning about Aboriginal culture and the way First Peoples express their connection to family, land, water, sky: "It has had a huge effect on my own way of seeing the world." Emiliano worked as the director of the Transcultural and Language Services Department and the Narrun Wilip-giin Aboriginal Support Unit at Northern Health in Victoria (Australia), which provided an opportunity to understand the impact cultural competence has on the well-being and health outcomes of Australians of diverse backgrounds:
Modern Australia encompasses our indigenous past as well as our British and multicultural history. We must, however, start with truth-telling, accepting the ongoing trauma caused by colonization and put in place meaningful strategies to close the gap; then we can reconcile and move forward.
Recently appointed in the Chief Executive Officer role at the Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria (ECCV), Emiliano has embarked on a new path. The ECCV is a member-driven peak body which advocates and lobbies government on behalf of multicultural communities. His view is that equitable access is often attained through nuanced understanding of, and consultation with, multicultural communities, rather than a standard one-size-fits-all approach. Social aspects such as care, the aged, family violence require specific understandings and approaches: "Better health and well-being outcomes are achievable for patients or clients and services become more efficient."
Apart from drawing on his own personal experiences, Emiliano feels that his parents have provided him with a good grounding in the values that have helped shape his approach to his work and his aspirations to contribute to a socially cohesive society: "Honesty, hard work, intellectual curiosity were all instilled in me and have served me well." He is now keen to lead the ECCV to ensure that society appreciates and values diversity:
Not only is diversity appealing aesthetically, intellectually and culturally, it is important economically. People forget this aspect; however, multinationals understand the power of diversity. They know they can draw on diversity of experiences and ways of thinking, especially based on cultural and other intersectional aspects, to ensure economic advantage.
Certainly, Emiliano's journey from Rome to Australia has proven that diversity provides cultural enrichment that shapes not only one's career, but also one's approach to connecting with people. The ultimate outcome? "Creating a more respectful and cohesive society."