St Cecilia’s children go ‘bush’ for the day
Dad had to face racism on field
Sergio Silvagni was a pioneer for European migrants playing Aussie Rules in Melbourne during the 1950s and 60s, when life for an Italian migrant was tough - on and off the field.
When World War II broke out, a year after he was born, “the Italians suddenly became enemies”, he says.
“During the war, all Italians settled down and kept a low profile.
“In football, Frank Curcio was the first player of an Italian background to really emerge, and then there was ‘Onga’ (Tony Ongarello) at Fitzroy.
“I was around during Onga’s time, and if the league’s racial vilification laws had been in place when Carlton and Fitzroy played then, half the crowd would have been locked up.
“Because the Italians were seen as enemies throughout the war, I had to be a very quiet and low-key kid, almost introverted.
“I just kept quiet and kept to myself, but playing sport was a way of assimilating.”