Inner West Councillors have unanimously supported a motion to raise the Italian flag at Leichhardt Town Hall on Festa della Repubblica, Italy’s National Day (June 2).
Calls to fly the Italian flag on Festa della Repubblica came about on June 11 this year, when the area bounding Norton and Marion Street between Hawthorne Parade and Balmain Road was renamed as Little Italy.
“I think it is a great idea to fly the Italian flag over Leichhardt Town Hall and I hope that the staff will be able to organise that,” Mayor Rochelle Porteous, who seconded Councillor Lucille McKenna’s motion, told the council meeting.
“The Italian community is a very solid, very committed community and while a lot of the Italians themselves may not still live in Leichhardt, they certainly come here and gather here for a lot of their celebrations, so I think it’s fitting that we have that flying from the Leichhardt Town Hall.”
As at the 2016 Census, there were over 174,000 people living in Australia who were born in Italy. Leichhardt was a hotbed of Italian migration after World War Two, with it now estimated that over 44,000 Italian-born Australian residents are living in Sydney.
“This is fitting recognition of the Italian community who moved into the area when it wasn’t such an area to be proud of,” Councillor Julie Passas told the meeting.
“I can understand too what the Italian people went through … the racism was rife and my heart used to break for the people, how they used to be laughed at because they couldn’t speak English.”
Multiple organisations and representatives of the Italian community conveyed their support for the Italian flag to be raised on Festa della Repubblica, Councillor Darcy Byrne describing that the community would see it as a “nice gesture” from Council.
At the Little Italy reception in June, Italian Democratic Party Senator Francesco Giacobbe, who represents diaspora Italians across Australia, Asia, Africa and Antarctica, felt it was paramount to symbolise the Italian heritage in Leichhardt.
“Our parents and grandparents arrived [in] this country and with their hard work, with their determination, they contributed to not only the lives of their families but also to make Australia a modern and multicultural country,” Mr Giacobbe said at the reception.
Despite the renaming of central Leichhardt as Little Italy, there has been a noticeable downturn in Italian culture throughout the area, as second, third and fourth generation Italo-Australians migrate from the Inner West.
Leichhardt saw its greatest sustained Italian immigration boom in the mid-20th century and quickly became an established area of trading for Italian businesses, including coffee shops, bakeries and clothing shops.