Nov 29, 2018

Statements on Indulgence – Melbourne: Attacks – Thursday, 29 November 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11:00): Terror is intended to divide us. Its aim is to build anxiety about whether our everyday activities are safe. Terror is supposed to remind us that they are not, that we should fear our neighbours because they aren’t what they seem or perhaps because they don’t look like us. It seeks to tear us down at the very moment when we need to build each other up. But, time and again, through the worst of humanity the best still shines through—a gentle reminder that division will get us nowhere. This is true of Sisto Malaspina, who made a life out of building a community in his corner of Melbourne, the iconic Pellegrini’s on Bourke Street, a place I visited many times over the years, often as an escape from meetings held in Melbourne at state parliament or the Commonwealth parliamentary offices or with members of the business community—from time to time, out the back with Sisto’s great friend Lindsay Fox. There was great coffee, as has been said, but even better service, and that’s because Sisto welcomed everyone. You were always welcome at Pellegrini’s. Indeed, as Harold Mitchell commented at Sisto’s state funeral, ‘Pellegrini’s was the United Nations’. It saw Hollywood stars, ministers and diplomats through its doors. But it also saw tourists and locals, all of whom would sit side by side at the cafe’s long bar. It, indeed, was a little bit of Italy right there in Melbourne.

The loss of Sisto in the Bourke Street lone wolf attack on 9 November this year, which also injured two other men, is devastating for his family and for the enormous number of friends that he had. I want to pay my condolences to Sisto’s wife, Vicki, children, David and Lisa, and baby granddaughter, Sofia. But it is truly the nation’s loss as well, because Sisto was a larger-than-life person whose commitment to his work turned Pellegrini’s into the institution it is today. Creating a legacy is no easy feat, but through his warmth and his commitment to serving his community Sisto achieved exactly that. In the days after the attack I also visited Pellegrini’s with Richard Wynne, the member for Richmond, to sign the condolence book and to pay my respects to Sisto’s life and contribution to our great multicultural nation of Australia.

Sisto’s story is an Italian immigrant’s story. It’s a proud Australian story. Born in a small town in the Marche region of Italy in 1944, he moved to Australia in the 1960s. His career started with odd jobs in the meatworks. He went on to catering, and in 1974 he took over Pellegrini’s with his co-owner and dear friend Nino Pangrazio, a business venture that has well and truly stood the test of time. He was passionate about the opera and the Essendon Football Club. His commitment to family, friends and Pellegrini’s was reflected in the more than 1,300 people who paid their respects at his funeral.

Melbourne won’t be the same without Sisto Malaspina, and that’s a fact, but we would all do well to live by his example: to show warmth and friendship to people that we know and, importantly, to people that we don’t know; to put division aside; and to build the kind of diverse, vibrant community where people are respected no matter what their background—a community that says ‘no’ to hate, which, in its extreme forms, leads to atrocious acts by those who act in the name of religion but who do nothing but disrespect the fundamental tenets of faith and their fellow human beings. We want the vibrant communities that make our nation the success that it is today.