Speaking the same language

The Italian language is a cornerstone of the cultural identity of Italians living in Australia that must be encouraged to flourish. However, according to Ambassador Paolo Crudele, knowing the language is also an asset.

Ambassador Paolo Crudele, appointed to the position in August last year, lauds the successful integration of Italians into Australian society but is concerned the community’s ties to the Italian language are potentially in danger:

Since my arrival, I have noticed the demand for more Italian teaching in schools and universities, perhaps due to the fear of many of our fellow citizens losing a significant cultural value, in addition to an emotional heritage.

Reaching new and young generations of Italian immigrants is a priority for the Ambassador. The Embassy is committed to reaching this demographic with the support of wider community networks. The Ambassador highlighted the Embassy’s commitment to Italian language teaching:

We maintain institutions and associations working to support Italian citizens and the study of the Italian language. The Italian Government sends teachers and professors from overseas and finances the language projects of many associations and schools in the country. The Embassy periodically coordinates meetings and video calls in order to assess the best approaches to the study of the Italian language, thanks to the dedication of Professor Valentina Biguzzi, our schools coordinator.

Italian Embassy in Canberra

Italian groups and organizations throughout Australia also play a crucial role in maintaining other aspects of culture, such as the cuisine, festivals, and traditions associated with Italy’s individual regions. Reflecting on his new role, the Ambassador emphasized the need to support both established communities of Italians in Australia, and to Italians who have recently arrived, acknowledging the very different needs of each group.

The Embassy’s interactions with Italians in Australia must have a 360-degree approach. The oldest communities in Australia are keen to renew their ties with their homeland and keep their traditions alive. Younger groups mainly look for assistance in settling in Australia, documentation for their bureaucratic procedures, and support in research and university projects.

Regarding the needs of the first group, Ambassador Crudele highlighted a recently introduced government initiative— Turismo delle Radici. With this project the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is trying to encourage the descendants of emigrants to return and rediscover their ties with Italy and their areas of origin,” explains Crudele. The 20-million-euro project is part of Italy’s post-Covid National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), which aims to support small villages and rural areas through sustainable development.

Ambassador Crudele also spoke enthusiastically about economic engagement between Italy and Australia, noting that ongoing cooperation was reaping enormous rewards. “In 2022 we hit a new record in bilateral trade—6.4 billion Euros or 10.7 billion Australian dollars,” he said.

Eliminating or reducing the language barriers is essential to establishing and maintaining business ties between the two countries. Knowing the language isn’t just about culture—it makes business sense.

Ambassador Paolo Crudele

The presence of Italian companies is significant for the Australian economy, providing more than 18,000 jobs in multiple sectors—energy, infrastructure, food and beverages—with an estimated total turnover of AU$10 billion per year.

And there is potential for further benefits, notes Ambassador Crudele:

We are focusing heavily on inter-university cooperation, with innovative projects and technological exchanges, which will hopefully serve to make a significant contribution in sectors such as aerospace, quantum physics, and astrophysics.

Ambassador Crudele also emphasized the work being done to strengthen political ties between the two countries in the postpandemic world, indicating that interests in Australia and the region are essential for the Italian government going forward. The Ambassador concluded:

The Embassy is working hard to foster mutual political visits between the two countries. Italy and Australia share core values—you could say we speak a common language—in the form of a commitment to democracy, respect for human rights, and the promotion of an open society based on freedom and social rights.

Images provided by The Embassy of Italy in Australia