By Alessandro Carosi
Memories are wonderful but sometime some of them aren’t, Australia was an incredible experience the best I ever had but life turns around like a wheel so I had some tough periods as well, one of them was when I spent all my money in Sydney and couldn’t find a job, it was just after Christmas and was really quiet everywhere, I didn’t have any skill, I didn’t speak English and money was running out, I couldn’t buy food so I would wake up at night to steal food in the fridge from others Backpackers, I didn’t want to ask money to my Mum but I was very close to ended up on the street till a Saint saved my life, our journey is made of encounters that teach us lessons, in this case wasn’t just about kindness but for me come the understanding of how life could be hard for someone borned Gay from a small village in Italy, I can’t remember his name and story very well a lot of years passed by but I think he told me that his family repudiated him for being Gay and had to leave home when he was young, that encounter was an important lesson, I was in Sydney that at the time was the second biggest LGBT community in the world and people was quite free to be themselves, guys holding hands on the street, Transgenders able to walk around without being stared like Aliens, for me was amazing to witness all of this trying to understand why was so hard in Italy to accept something that of strange has nothing, no I didn’t want to go back in that land I borned, there was nothing for me there to learn from, this poor Soul might have had such a hard time in his town, a small village in Sardinia.
At the time he was working as a farmer in Griffith a village 10 hours by bus from Sydney and he advised me to go to work there so to save some money and then go back when there was more Jobs available, I had no money for Bus and hostel so he lent me $1000 so that I could go there to work and then give him back, deal!! I got the money and 2 days later I was in Griffith, a sleepy town in the middle of nothing, a small town with a lot of dark secrets, in the past and probably still now was a hub for laundry money, drugs, trafficking of illegal workers for huge farms around the town and mostly owned by old Italian Mafiosi that over time reinvested their earnings in huge farms where now they were making money hiring illegal workers like my friend that didn’t have any work visa and the thousands of Asians, Middle Eastern that running away from wars or dictatorships arrived in Australia in search of a better life and like most of the time happen exploited by people that could take advantage of their situation
Griffith and other towns were created as part of the New South Wales State Government’s Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) project, a plan to supply irrigation from the Murrumbidgee river in order to open up western New South Wales for farming .
The town plan for Griffith, and nearby Leeton, was designed by Walter Burley Griffin in 1914, an unusual geometric pattern centred on a set of circular streets, with broad avenues radiating out in an octagonal arrangement. The streets were surveyed mostly according to that plan, and Griffith was declared a town in August 1916.
The main dam of the scheme was the large Burrinjuck Dam on the Murrumbidgee between Gundagai and Canberra, but was not completed until 1928. The Berembed Weir, near Narrandera, was built in 1912, diverting water from the Murrumbidgee River into the Bundidgerry Creek then into the Main Canal of the MIA at Narrandera. The Canal, almost a river in its own right, flows through the MIA, supplying water to the entire area, then flows through Griffith as part of the geometric plan, and peters out to the northwest of the town in rice farms.
The water supply was further enhanced with the construction of the Snowy River scheme by the Australian Federal Government in the 1950s and 1960s. The Blowering Dam, a large dam near Tumut stores a significant amount of water to be released down the Murrumbidgee for irrigation around Leeton, Griffith and the newer Coleambally area south of the Murrumbidgee and Griffith.
From the start of the MIA, citrus and other fruit and vegetables were grown in abundance around Griffith. In the 1950s the irrigation area expanded to include large rice farms. Vineyards were established early, and wineries followed, beginning with McWilliam’s Wines at Hanwood and Yenda, two villages just outside the city.
From its earliest days, the MIA was populated by Italian workers, some of whom were initially employed by Australian farmers to run steamboats on the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers. Approximately 60% of today’s Griffith population claim Italian background. These include the initial settlement of Italians from the boat crews and other Italians who came out to Australia in the Depression, or from a second wave of immigrant Italians who came to Griffith in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
In the 1970s, Griffith was often associated with drug distribution (particularly marijuana) and organised crime, as depicted in 2009 by Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities. However, Griffith is now associated with good wine and food, primarily as a result of its diverse population, with notable contributions by Italian-Australians. Griffith’s multi-ethnic population is now absorbing new national groups, including a significant Sikh Indian community. The city is sister city with the Italian city of Treviso in the Veneto Region. Many Italians in Griffith are from the Veneto Region or the Calabria Region of Italy.
The Italian influence expanded the range of fruit and vegetables, and also significantly increased the number of wineries and the range of wines produced by the existing wineries in the region, such as McWilliam’s. De Bortoli, Rosetto and other wineries were established by Italian immigrants, and today they are well known around Australia. In recent times they have been joined by one of the country’s best known wine labels, Yellow Tail, produced by Casella Family Brands. Casella, DeBortoli, McWilliam’s, Warburn and Berton Vineyards are now among the top 20 wine producers in Australia.
Griffith is the cathedral city of the Anglican Diocese of Riverina. The foundation stone of the Parish Church of St Alban the Martyr was dedicated in 1954. It was proclaimed as a cathedral in 1984.
Some articles to make you understand more about Griffith
There is much more but I will leave you to search for it, while working in Griffith I heard so many stories from Backpackers and fruit pickers, one that I remember vividly was the story of this Farmer that checking on a picker took out of his pocket a huge amount of money rolled up, my working situation was part of that illegal trade that was the illegal workers, a Chilean guy probably hired by the families that owned the farms was in charge to place the workers in houses where in small rooms 10 people would sleep together
we were paid $15 per hours when the minimum wages was $17 so that the farmers would not pay taxes on it and for the government we didn’t exist, we worked with temperatures that could easily reach 40 degrees and often we had to stop working cause the heat was unbearable
I think they separated pickers from wealthy countries from the poor one and I wouldn’t be surprise that for those unlucky ones with no rights to work all day under the heavy heat of the Australian outback, an Italian death due to the extreme working conditions and heat would be a problem for them but a poor illegal Indonesian or Chinese death would have been easily replaced from someone else in the same conditions and no one would ever claim the body back or bother to even start an investigation, sad isn’t ? That was the life in Griffith, I had fun because I knew it was temporary, I was treated well cause I borned in the wealthy part of this planet but what about the invisible ones ? The ones that borned in the poor part of the world, the ones with no rights, no passport, I don’t think was fun to be in this modern slavery, Griffith was temporary and only later on in life when I was mature enough to understand where I ended up I fully understood the experience, I have memories, memories of beautiful Sunflowers fields
of friendships that lasted years but I have memories of what is wrong in our society too, the discrimination for being borned gay, the rejection of your own family that at first, most of the time selfishly deliver you into this life declaring the love in that act but then they refuse to accept the fact that we all go through life searching for happiness in different way and if isn’t their way then……..you don’t deserve to be happy, making babies is like to be in a relationship, we want it only because we are empty within and we think they will fill up the gap.
Memories of a sunny town that from the outside look bright and beautiful but inside is rotten and hold dark secrets made of greediness for power, money, status, memories of a town where immigrants in search of a better life ended up to replicate the same shits from their own countries, bringing more sadness, unhappiness, delirium, in a planet that all it needs is a bit of Love.