Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 07, 2024


Co.As.It. (SA)

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (17:23): I move:

That this council–

1. Congratulates Co.As.It. (SA) for its important support services to the aged Italian community and for achieving a special milestone of its 20th anniversary in 2023;

2. Recognises that Co.As.It.(SA) is a leading provider of social community welfare and aged-care support for ageing Italian Australians in South Australia, and that their valuable services, advocacy and programs help seniors to live a fulfilling life; and

3. Acknowledges the important work of founding members, current and past presidents, committee members, professionals and volunteers of Co.As.It.(SA) and thanks them for their outstanding hard work over the past 20 years for delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate services by applying a quality of life framework to look after the vulnerable ageing Italo-Australian community in South Australia.

As the shadow minister for multicultural South Australia, it is a great honour to move the motion to congratulate Co.As.It. for its important support services to the aged Italian community and for achieving the special milestone of their 20th anniversary in 2023. Co.As.It. is an abbreviation for Comitato Assistenza Italiani, which means Italian Assistance Committee. It highlights their mission and key objective of addressing the needs and advancing the wellbeing of ageing Italo-Australians with access to information, support, advocacy, services and programs that support a fulfilling life.

It was certainly a great privilege to attend the 20th anniversary gala celebration on Friday 27 October 2023 alongside many parliamentary colleagues, including the Hon. Vincent Tarzia, the member for Hartley, who is deeply connected with the Italian community in South Australia. Through listening to many amazing and moving speeches, I gained a deeper understanding of the organisation.

Although Co.As.It. was established 20 years ago in Adelaide, its history goes back further, to the first Co.As.It., which was established in Sydney back in 1968. The Italian consul general of the time, Dottore Guido Natali, under the auspices of the Italian government, helped to set up an organisation to provide assistance and support for the many postwar World War II migrants who had settled in Australia.

One of the Co.As.It. founding members, Vincenzo Papandrea, described in his translated speech how the idea of Co.As.It. in South Australia was first formed after several meetings in Melbourne. I quote:

There was a need to respond to the changes in strategies of both the local and Italian governments in the provision of funds intended for those more in need, such as the elderly. It was necessary to bring together all the welfare associations under a single umbrella and submit requests for funds in the welfare sector to the various bodies.

Through determination and hard work, Co.As.It. has become a proud organisation well supported by other community organisations such as Com.It.Es. and the broader Italian community and focuses on providing aged-care services and community empowerment for ageing Italian Australians.

To appreciate the incredible services of Co.As.It., I would like to highlight some key services that they provide. They provide assistance and resources to help members understand and access aged-care services, specifically through the federal government My Aged Care portal. The resources that Co.As.It. provides cover all aspects of guidance for their members to be able to successfully navigate the aged-care system, with resources also provided in Italian to help overcome the language barrier.

Registration with Co.As.It. (SA) by social support groups under the My Aged Care portal also entitles members to subsidised fees for their social programs. These programs currently include the Campania Sports and Social Club social support tombola group, where members can play cards and bocce and enjoy a typical Italian-style meal, and the Unley Italian Community Association, where members can also enjoy Italian-style meals alongside various social activities. I give a big shout-out to the Hon. David Pisoni, who is the local member for Unley and who continues to support and visit the Unley Italian Community Association.

The third program is the St Maria Goretti social group, which serves Italian meals and offers a variety of social activities, and the fourth is the Italian Pensioners of Thebarton and Suburbs group, which hosts many different activities and regular day trips for the ageing Italian community. Thank you to all the wonderful groups and local community organisations that have partnered with Co.As.It. to provide these great social programs for our elderly.

Other important programs to highlight today are their community empowerment services and programs, which take a holistic approach to ageing and where psychological, emotional and physical wellbeing have been recognised as areas of need. Co.As.It. has collaborated with the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre within the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) to build wellbeing and resilience across the ageing Italian community.

Co.As.It. has also collaborated with the Society of St Hilarion Aged Care and the University of South Australia's school of health science to develop and launch the Italian Seniors Stay Active for Wellbeing exercise program. The exercise program is tailored to the cultural and linguistic needs of the ageing Italo-Australian community and focuses on aerobic and strength training.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all the volunteers and pay tribute to them. Co.As.It. offers a volunteer recognition program each year and hosts the Italian Community Volunteer Awards. The volunteer awards aim to recognise individuals who have given their time generously to serve the Italo-Australian community in South Australia. I have attended many such award presentations and I would like to express my gratitude to all the hardworking volunteers who serve at Co.As.It.

None of these initiatives, services, programs, community partnerships and volunteer coordination could have been accomplished without the strategic directions and dedication of the board of Co.As.It. When they were celebrating the 20th anniversary, the leadership team consisted of six very passionate and dedicated members including Tina Taddeo, president; Joe Scalzi, vice president; Edmondo Palombo, treasurer; Lina Scalfino, secretary; Luisa Greco, board consultant; and Anna Finizio, board member.

Co.As.It. President Tina Taddeo is a wonderful president who has a deep passion for serving the community. She brings a wealth of knowledge from her business background to excel in the president's role. Vice President Joe Scalzi, who many of us know is a former Liberal member for Hartley, has been involved with Co.As.It. for more than 10 years. Joe brings to the table his knowledge from the education sector, which has contributed to the many education programs delivered by Co.As.It. Treasurer Edmondo Palombo is an experienced registered nurse and has utilised his nursing experience to support many programs at Co.As.It.

Secretary Lina Scalfino has dedicated her professional life as an educator within the education department for the last 40 years. She has also involved herself as a volunteer for Radio Italiana 531 and also as a member of the Programs, Special Programs Events Subcommittee. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Lina on her recent appointment as the now new President of Co.As.It, which was announced about five days ago. I wish her and her new committee all the best going forward.

On the last committee, Luisa Greco was a passionate and very much involved community leader and played a critical role in Co.As.It. She was working with the founding groups from the beginning and she also brings her great experience in the aged-care sector to assist the board as a consultant.

Another board member who is worthy of mention is Anna Finizio, who regularly is a guest speaker on Italian radio to keep the community informed of legal and policy issues. Anna brings a professional background in law and health and her experience in public policy and advocacy. We are very proud that the Liberal Party has recently endorsed Dr Anna Finizio as the candidate for Dunstan, upon the retirement of the Hon. Steven Marshall, the former Premier of South Australia. We will certainly be working hard with Anna going forward in her by-election campaign.

On this note, I would also very much like to acknowledge a lifetime patron and founder of Co.As.It., the Hon. Mario Feleppa OAM, who as most of us know formerly served as a member of parliament in the Legislative Council and had the original vision of combining various Italian-based organisations in the aged-care sector in order to have the combined voice in South Australia for advocacy, funding and lobbying.

Mario's vision was greatly supported and assisted by Vincenzo Papandrea, who was then the President of Com.It.Es. and represented many Italian migrants. I would like to pay tribute to Franca Antonella, a volunteer in the Italian community and an exceptional community leader who was known by the Hon. Mario Feleppa and became the first President of Co.As.It. to help establish the organisation. All of those I mentioned are exceptional leaders who have served the Italian community with their heart and soul.

In my closing remarks, a very happy 20th anniversary to Co.As.It. May the organisation continue to reach new heights, so that our ageing Italo-Australian community can live a fulfilling life and all their health and wellbeing is cared for. With those remarks, I commend the motion to the chamber.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.