60 seconds with Luisa Salvo


Multicultural Champion and trainee marathon runner

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
I have recently changed from working fulltime to part time and I’m loving it. I am really enjoying spending time with my children. I have also just taken up running (shuffling, really) and I feel really strong and proud of myself for doing it! I’m training to run the Melbourne Marathon in October.

What is the best thing that happened to you today?
The people I work with. They make coming to work so enjoyable.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
I would want the power of healing and maybe x-ray vision.

What talent would you most like to possess?
I would like to be a great public speaker.

What is your best quality or attribute?
I am really good at laughing at myself!

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
I’VE GOT IT! [Luisa co-ordinates the diversity workforce projects, including the Multicultural Champions, at Southern Cross Care Victoria]

What do you most value in your friends?
Their love and empathy.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
Even though it’s hard you can trust people and most people are good.  Please do not take it to heart if someone is ignorant about your experiences of coming to Australia.  You are perfect the way you are and you have a lot to give.  Try and keep your language and try to speak it to your children. Try and meet other people who have already moved here from your country and find what worked best for them. Get to know your community and use the local services: the library is a great place to start!

What’s your favourite word in your language? Why?
My favourite word is ‘bacala’.  It’s Italian for salty fish but it also means ‘silly’ in a nice way of course – there’s a lot lost in translation! I often call myself a bacala.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
Racism and stereotypes.  I’ve often felt I don’t fit in with the Australian culture, but I don’t feel I fit in with my own Italian community either.  Feeling in-between has become a lot easier as I’ve gotten older.  My friends have helped because they have gone through something similar growing up in Australia.

Can you describe a time when you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant or refugee background?
I remember my grandmother – nonna — being made fun of because she was always dressed in black and she used to bring me lunch at school.  I remember being in fights with children a lot growing up and being bullied at school because they thought mynonna was a witch.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
Being with other women from immigrant backgrounds and sharing experiences.

If you could invite any woman (dead or living) to dinner tonight, who would it be?
My nonna.  I practically lived with her –across the road from my parents—straight after my nonno, died. I want to thank her for telling me never to give up the fight to hang on to my language.  When I was in primary school, my teacher sent a letter home to my parents instructing them to stop speaking Italian to me at home because I wasn’t learning English quickly enough. My parents stopped, but my nonna continued to speak to me in her Sicilian dialect.  I now speak better Sicilian than any of my relatives!

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
My mum because she’s had such a difficult life.  Compared to what she’s endured during her life, I really can’t complain about anything.  She migrated to Australia when she was 11 years old and didn’t know her father until later in life because he was fighting in the war.  My mum wanted to work as a secretary but she had to work in a factory instead to help the family.  I used to think she was quite naïve, but she’s an extremely intelligent woman.  She has an inquiring mind and is not afraid to ask questions.

Do you have a song/music that inspires and motivates you?
The soundtrack from the movie ‘Rocky’, because every time I hear it I want to go for a run.  I wanted to walk down the aisle to ‘Eye of the Tiger’, but I had to have ‘The Lady in Red’ instead (I wore red at my wedding).  Maybe they’ll play ‘Eye of the Tiger’ at my funeral.

What is your favourite possession?
I’m not really into possessions but my nonna’s engagement ring is pretty special. Years ago, my nonna was quite sick, lost a lot of weight and the ring slipped off her finger.  A decade later, years after my nonna passed away, my dad found it in her garden while planting broccoli. Can you believe it?

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
It’s really important to treat people the way you want to be treated.