Set to unfold at Graduate House (The University of Melbourne), the evening will feature a dinner showcasing Calabrian fare and several special guests.
Shadow attorney-general John Pesutto will fulfil the role of special guest speaker, while Calabrian milliner Stefano Costabile will donate one of his masterpieces for auction during the night.
Also in attendance will be the association’s Board members, including President Vincent Morfuni QC, and Secretary Domenico Conidi, both hailing from neighbouring towns in the province of Vibo Valentia.
The concept of a new association with the objective of enhancing and celebrating Calabrian culture came from Mr Morfuni, who held a meeting in May 2016 with around 30 people with Calabrian connections to discuss the idea’s potential.
“My vision is to enable our children and grandchildren to learn about our culture [beyond food and wine] and instil in them pride in their Calabrese heritage,” Mr Morfuni said.
During the meeting, one thing was agreed upon: that there was a need for an association which, through its activities and initiatives, promoted Calabrian history and culture and the contribution that the Calabrian community has made to Australian society.
Since then the association’s founding members have worked tirelessly to realise their plans; this May, the Calabrese Cultural Association became a public company and two months later, the organisation held its inaugural Annual General Meeting.
With two Sicilians and an Irishman on the Board, the Calabrese Cultural Association is an evidently inclusive body where the only membership prerequisite is an interest in Calabrian culture and history.
“In terms of demographic, we want to capture all age groups, but in particular, those people who are trying to reconnect to their past,” Mr Conidi said.
“We see the need to attract that younger generation because they are going to propel the association forward into the future, but we also want to attract people like ourselves who were born in Italy and experienced migration and the expectation of assimilation.”
Both Mr Morfuni and Mr Conidi ventured to Australia as children at a time when Italian arrivals experienced widespread racism and discrimination.
Both grew up living double lives: making sausages and tomato sauce at home, while playing down their heritage and trying to be as Aussie as possible in public.
For them, this association is a way to reconnect with the culture they gradually detached from and create a positive legacy for future generations.
“I want my children to understand where I come from, who I am, and the things I do based on my background,” Mr Conidi said.
According to its founding fathers, the Calabrese Cultural Association is a new and unique body with a much broader scope than pre-existing clubs and associations.
“The established clubs and associations do a wonderful job catering for a particular demographic and audience and it’s great that they provide a forum where people of similar backgrounds can get together and celebrate festive events and so forth,” Mr Conidi said.
“But we want to explore our cultural heritage and delve deep into the contribution we’ve made to the community. We want to have cultural connections with Calabrian organisations both in Italy and here to promote those cultural aspects.”
One of the early projects the association wants to focus on is publishing an exploratory work on the impact that migration had on families when the breadwinner – usually the father – migrated to Australia, leaving the family behind in Italy.
Mr Conidi can relate to this experience, as he waved goodbye to his father in 1967, when he was just 18 months old, and “met” him in Australia in 1971, when he was five years old.
The association also strives to collaborate with clubs to transcend the coming together of paesini and advocate for the entire Calabrian community in a meaningful way.
Mr Morfuni explained that the association has already formed ties with the Regional Representative to Australia, Vince Daniele, who will assist in compiling a database of Australians with Calabrian descent to whom the association can reach out for collaboration.
“We then want to get in touch with the Calabrian regional government and foster regular cultural exchanges between the region and Australia,” Mr Morfuni explained.
For example, the association wants build on Calabria's tourism capacity and promote the fact that the region offers scholarships for people aged between 18 and 32 to study history and language at the University of Cosenza and the University of Catanzaro.
Mr Morfuni and Mr Conidi hope to see people with a connection to Calabria at the official dinner launch and becoming involved in the execution of the association’s plans in the future.
“We need as many people as possible to participate in this great project,” Mr Morfuni concluded.