Australia is a dream for many young Italian people. A well-functioning country, that is to say, modern and efficient, a place where to seek one’s fortune and find hope again. But is this true? Is it really the country friends and media describe us with enthusiasm? Is it really the country whose economic strategies and success in the fight against illegal immigration is so often taken as an example by Italian politicians? Danila Testolin who started a family home for the Community of Pope John XXIII in Sydney, describes it as a rich city with a flourishing economy. Yet, it is a country that has also serious problems in the background. “The Australian system – comments Danila – works wonderfully on an organizational level but fails to do so on a human level”.
“It is a society that tends to create areas, sectors, to put everything in the right place, in the right box, to give precise answers to specific needs. Due to this characteristic it risks to overlook the situation in its entirety. They give you all the tools you need in order to be autonomous. Yet, it is not a matter of fact that a person will actually succeed in doing so, because there is much solitude there. Sydney lacks inclusion in the community. The elderly, for instance, are almost always confined in nursing homes,” explains Danila. Australian reality is different from the African one, it does not bring you into direct contact with the tragedies of hunger and poverty; it does not trigger those intense and primitive sensations you experience when looking in the eyes of a malnourished child. But there are still people who need help there, in “an advanced western civilization where emotions are more cushioned and poverty is screaming less inside your soul”.
And this happens at the expense of the weakest members of society, the young and the elderly. “It is a cultural pattern – goes on the APG 23 missionary – a different idea of what a family is, an ” Anglo-Saxon ” model with individuals who must become independent very soon”. A “forced” independence that often leads to personal isolation, depression, alcohol and drug addiction. And the new technologies do not help to contrast this phenomenon; in the era of the social media every man is an island in the Internet’s sea, and precisely those technologies that should help to get people closer, keep us apart, making it increasingly difficult to communicate in an honest and sincere way with another person, because on the web we are discouraged to expose ourselves personally.
Danila’s Family Home was born from an appeal of the Archbishop of the Melkite Church in Italy; the initiative in Australia has been helping, for 11 years now, people in need with diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, refugees, women who fell victims to domestic violence or in difficult situations. The Community offers shelter to many young Italian immigrants during their first steps in the country, who are often a target of exploitation, especially at the hands of the so-called “contractors”, true “lance corporals” who recruit young people and make them work in the fields of the Australian outback.
In January 2015 the Community was officially recognized by the Australian authorities and now there is desire to expand, with projects that range from providing aid and rehabilitating homeless people, to creating a day centre. But it lacks personnel, although, due to the project for civil service abroad “White Helmets”, more young volunteers are joining the Community. “Having more people means having more strength and ability to create new relations based on mutual comprehension and collaboration,” says the head of Australian APG 23, Marco Panzetti, who continues: “In the immediate future we are going to collaborate with various entities in order to animate refugees, a great problem here as well, and young people. It is a very favourable moment and we are praying for brothers and sisters to be willing to go on a mission to Australia. It is crucial, however, to know English language”. To sum up, it is a difficult place in spite of the paradisiacal descriptions, where much needs to be done. For oneself, if one wants to try their chances, or for the others, if one has the courage to try to change not only their own life, but also the lives of the most desperate ones.