Italian language and heritage valued

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Spring 1-9-2011

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



The delicious smells of gelato and pizza in the piazze; riding a Vespa along the Amafi Coast; the ancient monuments in Rome and a villa in the Tuscan countryside – all vivid cultural images of one of the most visited countries in the world, Italy.

Italian students from The University of Notre Dame Australia’s (UNDA) Fremantle Campus, however, believe language is the most important factor for recognising and retaining Italian heritage in Australia.

Notre Dame was one of only seven universities from around the country selected to participate in the National “Why Italian?” Videoconference hosted by the Australian National University on Friday, August 19.

It was facilitated by Professor Joe Lo Bianco, the Chair of Language and Literacy Education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

The aim of the conference was to promote the importance of Italian language and culture in Australia in celebration of 150 years of Italian unification.

UNDA Italian lecturers, Dr Milena Vico and Jody Fitzhardinge, joined their students in discussing the importance of preserving the language of more than 228,000 Italians who migrated to Australia after the Second World War.

With a reduction in student numbers learning the Italian language, from an estimated 35,000 students in Year 8 to just 2000 by Year 12, Professor Lo Bianco said it was important to reconceptualise Italian as an ‘Australian’ language.

Second year Arts student, Danielle McCabe, fell in love with the Italian language after working in Rome for five years as a tour guide.

Miss McCabe, whose goal is to become an Italian teacher, says she’s motivated to share her passion for the language with other students.

“Learning any language can really open up your mind,” Miss McCabe said.

“I believe that studying Italian can link you with the people, history and culture which make Italy such a wonderful place to visit.”

Ms Fitzhardinge said the Italian language unified everything she was passionate about in life including music, art and literature.

“Studying Italian gives students of a non-Italian background the opportunity to study an amazing language and culture,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.

Dr Vico says a strategy needs to be put in place to prevent students losing interest in studying the Italian language.

“This national conference has brought together academics from around Australia in order to find answers to existing problems of student attrition in the Italian language,” Dr Vico said.

“At Notre Dame, we have introduced a unit on the Italian Renaissance coordinated by Professor Chris Wortham. It is an elaborate program that touches the heart of the Italian culture – from literature, to art and music.

“I believe that this type of course can immerse students in the Italian language and culture which can hopefully translate into more numbers studying Italian in high school and university.”

For more information on the Italian program at Notre Dame’s Fremantle Campus, contact the School of Arts & Sciences on 9433 0100.

MEDIA CONTACT: Leigh Dawson, Tel (08) 9433 0569, Mob 0405 441 093