Angela’s continental life
A thirst for education, a passion for music and an impetus to help others less fortunate have driven Angela Zammataro’s life,as she explained to
Angela Zammataro’s early schooling was cut short at Mossman High because, coming from a family of seven, she said “I had to leave after Year 10. My parents asked me to go to work because there were so many children after me. It was the biggest tragedy of my young life having to leave school.”
Her father Alfio had come to Mossman in 1953 to accompany his sister who had married a Mossman man by proxy.
Two years later his young family joined him and they lived in a corrugated iron house in Mossman.
The family could not afford piano lessons for Angela at the convent school, so she’d go into the classroom at lunchtime and try to play by herself. She said “I just couldn’t not do it. I’d rather play piano than go outside.”
Her father played the Sicilian tambourine and Angela remembers “I woke up every morning of my childhood to my mother singing songs in Sicilian, Neapolitan and Italian.”
After she left school Angela worked in the National Bank, firstly in Mossman, then Cairns and when she was transferred to Brisbane, she completed Year 12 at night school.
She then went to university studying the Italian language, English literature and history. In each place, she joined a choir.
In 1979 in Brisbane she helped build an ethnic radio station, literally from the ground up.
They even erected the mast which they’d purchased from Triple Z. Forty language groups were involved at Radio 4EB which was owned, operated and financed by its members.
Later the Public Broadcasting Corporation added some funds and SBS paid to stream their content.
Then she worked establishing the first migrant resource centre in Queensland, organising services including free legal advice and English classes.
In 1981 like many young Australians, Angela travelled to Europe, working in London for a secretarial agency.
She continued her Italian language studies in Perugia in Italy although she had spoken the Sicilian dialect all her life.
“Everyone in Sicily spoke Sicilian as well as Italian until TV came in the late ’70s. Then people decided to stop speaking the dialect to their children, which I feel is a great loss of culture.” Somehow speaking a dialect was considered a sign of ignorance,
She moved around Europe, teaching English in Messina, Italy and in Spain and even taught a course in Lancashire in England.
But after five years she moved to Melbourne for a fresh start where she took her Diploma of Education at Melbourne University.
Later she worked in the inner city offices of politicians and in a Community Health Centre, doing advocacy and access work.
Music was still a large part of her life and she joined a South American choir singing Canto General, an oratorio based on poems by Pablo Neruda set to music by Theodorakis, telling the history of Latin America.
In the choir she met Chilean poet Segundo Nitor.
Segundo began to put his poems to music under Angela’s encouragement, composing music on his guitar, and with her knowledge of Spanish, she could translate some of them into English.
They decided to return to Mossman to spend time with her elderly parents.
“We thought we’d be here for two years, but 21 years later I have no plans to go back to Melbourne.”
They formed their band Los Caracoles, with their first gig at the Fun in the Shade festival at Kuranda in 1997 when their son Maru was three months old.
At first Angela and Segundo only played at community functions such as Australia Day and Peace Week events run by Cairns Council, until Poetry and Pasta began every month at Mojo’s restaurant in Mossman.
As Maru grew, he could stand on a pedestal to play the congas and then Bennett Walker and Larry McGrath joined them. More recently they were joined by young Colombian Juan Pablo Ruiz Sierra. Now they combine with Maru and Ryo from the Montgomery Brothers and have just completed a very successful tour of Chile.
The band has released 3 CDs, performing original songs that are mostly about social issues and the environment.
Angela is still helping others, working in Cairns teaching English as a Second Language which she began at Mossman TAFE 20 years ago.
She enjoys educating refugees from Bhutan and Myanmar about tropical cyclones and dengue and even how to board a bus.
Some Bhutanese students who were farmers had never held a pencil.
So she has followed her life’s passions of music, education and advocacy and also has her family close by, with her son and four of her siblings, Sam, Anthony, Roy and AnneMarie, living in the area.
“I’m not planning to live anywhere else now,” she says.
Angela Zammataro today. Inset: Mother Maria with Tony, Sam and Angie