Migrant role honoured
While it was tough for a boy aged 10 arriving on WA’s shores in the 1950s, Tony Scaffidi insists migrants who paved the way had it far harder and deserve recognition.
The journey to Australia from Sicily in 1951 was the best thing that could have ever happened to him, Tony said, and it made him appreciate the situation of the earlier migrants.
“We never got any assistance from anybody, no dole, no nothing, it made you especially appreciate the people that came before us,” he said.
“The people that came before me couldn’t speak English, had no schooling and fitted in and contributed to the whole State,” he said.
“My section was easy because the ones who came before, they had the hard times.”
Arriving with his parents and sister, Tony attended school in Kirup for just over three years – after four years of schooling in Italy – before heading out for work.
It was a hard start, Tony said, and while within a year he could speak English, it still took longer to fit in.
“You get dropped off at school and don’t speak a word of English, but you soon learn,” he said. “It was tough, but you’ve got to fit into the system and be part of it.
“You say things the wrong way round but it didn’t matter.”
Tony then worked around the South West on farms, before he bought his own in Donnybrook in 1962.
“From there, we just grew, bought another one in ’66 and ended up with 150 acres of orchard,” he said.
“Apples and pears, and actually, we developed the marketing of the Lady Williams apple.”
As his orchard business grew, Tony expanded into property, first with a subdivision in Australind and later into the Bunbury CBD.
Like those before him, Tony wanted to contribute to the community and State that took him in. He was president of the Donnybrook school board, a State representative of the WA Fruit Growers Association, director of the Donnybrook Country Club and one of the original members of the Bunbury Wellington Economic Alliance.
Tony has also been a Rotarian for 38 years, first with Donnybrook and later with
You get dropped off at school and don’t speak a word of English, but you soon learn. Tony Scaffidi
Bunbury, involved in many projects including running the Donnybrook Apple Festival.
“It’s not what you get out of the country, it’s about what you also put into it,” he said.
Tony has also been presented with the highest award in Rotary International – the Paul Harris Fellowship for his service.
One project he’s proud to be a part of is the committee working to erect a memorial to the South West’s migrants in Queen’s Park.
The memorial will take the shape of a tree, with the trunk the first generation and the branches and leaves their descendants, and has 500 plaques already.
“It’s very important with this migrant’s memorial that we recognise the effort that people who came before the world wars and contributed.
“It’s a tribute to them, the way they participated, the way they contributed to the South West and to Australia.”
Donnybrook business owner and migrant Tony Scaffidi is proud to be part of a group honouring early migrants with a memorial.