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It’s a melancholy duty for all of us here in the chamber today to speak on this motion, offering condolences on the death of Sisto Malaspina, particularly for all the Melburnians in the chamber. A lot has been said about Sisto Malaspina. The reality is, for anyone born and bred in Melbourne—and there are hundreds of thousands of people who fall into this category—who attended or dined at Pellegrini’s, or visited, you felt like you knew Sisto. Sisto made you feel special. The way Sisto greeted you when you walked in the door was the embodiment of who he was. In my life, I probably only visited Pellegrini’s half a dozen times, and even I felt great emotion when I first heard of Sisto’s tragic death. It came home to me just how many people were feeling the same way, because we all felt we knew him—he embodied our values.
I want to pay my deepest condolences to his wife, Vicky, and children, David and Lisa. How tragic that just a week earlier his granddaughter Sofia was born. How tragic—the happiness and the emotion for that family, for Sisto and his granddaughter—it was spoken about his funeral—to have that ripped away from them, in the way it was, is so tragic.
Sisto must never be remembered for the way his life ended. He has to be remembered for the way he lived his life. Coming to Australia in 1963, he displayed, he demonstrated—as I said earlier, he epitomised—the migrant experience into Australia. He came here, he rolled his sleeves up, he lived and enjoyed the freedom of Australia, he created employment for others, he created prosperity for others, he brought joy to so many people, and of course he built a better life for his family. Isn’t that the migrant experience? Isn’t that the motivation for people who come to Australia—to ensure that their children and grandchildren have better opportunities than they had themselves? And, boy, did Sisto make the most of those opportunities. He opened Pellegrini’s with his very good friend, Nino Pangrazio. As was referred to at the funeral, Nino and Sisto were a bit like salt and pepper. What an enduring partnership they had in a friendship sense, in a business sense, that, again, demonstrates the sort of person that Sisto was.
I want to remark, just very briefly, on the tragic circumstances that led to his death. By no means should Sisto’s life be defined by this, but the reality is Sisto, a generous, kind-hearted man, saw somebody in trouble—or so he thought—in Bourke Street, and without flinching, without questioning, he went to that person’s aid. He saw a car on fire in the middle of Bourke Street. Without thinking, he went to help that person. Tragically, shockingly, as it turned out, that person was the one who ripped him away from his family and from all Melburnians.
This is a serious challenge for our country. The member for Melbourne Ports outlined it very wisely. It’s a challenge that we have to ensure we’re up to. It’s a challenge that, to date, Australia has done a good job on. But fundamentalist Islamic terrorism is something that is not just a theoretical problem that we discuss in universities or parliaments. It affects the lives of real people. It has affected the life of this great man, his family, his friends and, as I said, the many, many hundreds of thousands of people impacted by it. So that’s what, in the end, motivates all of us in this chamber: to ensure that we keep Australians safe and that we never, ever wave the white flag on fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, and do everything we have to to combat this very insidious ideology.
But, again, I think it’s more fitting to end on a high note: speaking about Sisto Malaspina’s life. I was on the phone to a friend of mine last night who happened to just mention the number of times that he and his wife would attend Pellegrini’s. Before the theatre it was always packed; you could never get a seat. The last time they were there, which was only a couple of months ago, Sisto said, ‘If you don’t mind, come down the back. I’ve got a couple of spots on a crate in the kitchen.’ Doesn’t that just highlight the generosity, the warmth, the mark of the man? We’ve heard so many similar stories, and, indeed, we all have a Sisto story.
Rest in peace, Sisto Malaspina. Thank you for your life. Thank you for the example you’ve set for us all. I hope we can live up to that example and ensure that we don’t suffer—and that nobody suffers—in the way you have again.
Click here to access a PDF copy of the Hansard transcript of this speech.