A COUNTRY childhood, learning about life from her Italian and Chinese grandparents while growing up in Markwood, have helped inform popular AFLW player Darcy Vescio’s latest role – that of an Ambassador for Multiculturalism. She was recently named as part of the program by the Victorian Multicultural Commission, and said she was humbled to be a part of it. “I feel privileged to be a part of the Ambassadors for Multiculturalism campaign, as it’s so important to share stories of multicultural Australians and highlight our contributions to society,” Darcy said. “People from all walks of life play football and other sports, and sport has a unique way of uniting people to celebrate what you share rather than what your differences are. “Our stories break down barriers, build human connection and bring people together.” Darcy said she had a “really special” childhood, living “across the paddock” from her Italian Nonno Frank Vescio and Nonna Lina Vescio. She also regularly spent time with her mother’s father, of Chinese background, Cheong Lip Louey.
Darcy said spending time with relatives for whom English was not a first language fostered her respect and admiration for them and taught her to see beyond language barriers. She added that going to school with a small number of students at Markwood Primary School showed her the value of teamwork and being inclusive, as anyone who wanted to play a game in the playground usually had to get most or all of the school involved to have enough players. Darcy said that while she grew up in a multicultural family and community, exposed to different cultures from an early age, she did not feel different. “I don’t feel like we were treated any differently,” she said. “I never really thought anything we did was different. “It was all about you as a person. “It was pretty special.” Darcy said that she was looking forward to connecting with people from all walks of life in her ambassador role, and said sharing personal experiences was an excellent way to find common ground with others. “I think sharing your story helps people connect with you,” she said, adding that it helped underline the contribution of those with multicultural backgrounds. “I want to start conversations and open up dialogue for people to share their experiences.” Darcy said as a prominent athlete, she has seen the value of sport in communities throughout her life, with sport being the heart and social glue of many small and regional towns. “You see how important football and netball are to communities,” she said, adding that she thinks sporting bodies have an important role to play in stimulating community conversation. “Everyone who steps on a football field is still a person with values,” she said. “It instills a different sort of passion into the game. “It’s part of why I play football – you can bring about change through sport and sporting conversation.” The ambassadors in the program will promote their multicultural experience by sharing their personal stories - reflecting on the strength of cultural diversity in their lives and experiences and its powerful force in shaping a more inclusive community. The panel of ambassadors also comprises actress Olympia Valance; Victorian chef, restaurateur and media personality Karen Martini; AFL premiership star Jack Riewoldt; and successful corporate personality and NBL chairperson Larry Kestelman. VMC chairperson, Helen Kapalos, is hopeful that by adding a range of diverse voices and experiences to the current discussion, the ambassadors will encourage others to share their stories and add to the state’s rich social fabric. “Victoria is well known for its successful and visible brand of multiculturalism, which takes the collective goodwill and efforts of many,” Helen said. “We see the role of our ambassadors as continuing to build a stronger, more resilient and more cohesive society at a time when we need to be reminded of the great gifts our unique diverse society brings”. Through the course of the program, each of the ambassadors will engage with communities across the state, sharing their multicultural stories and how Victoria’s diversity has positively impacted their lives. For more information about the Victorian Multicultural Commission and this program, visit www.multicultural.vic.gov.au.
◆ IN IT TOGETHER: Pictured at the launch of the Ambassadors for Multiculturalism Campaign are (from left) Olympia Valance, Darcy Vescio, Larry Kestelman, and Karen Martini (absent: Jack Riewoldt).
PASSION FOR MULTICULTURALISM: Darcy Vescio, seen here speaking at the launch of the Ambassadors for Multiculturalism campaign, wants to use her role to break down community barriers.