Podcast Part 1 | Fabio Petrusa
Podcast Part 2 | Fabio Petrusa
This is Fabio’s story told in his own words:
I was born in 1939 the fifth child of seven. The war began soon after and it was not a happy place in northern Italy at that time. As a child I saw many soldiers from many nations pass our house from the partisans, Italians, Germans and lastly the Americans. My education was very limited and I spent most of my childhood walking the hills around our town, climbing trees, hunting for mushrooms, wild asparagus and anything else that was edible. We had no toys but being very inventive we made our own with sticks, rocks,leaves and anything else we could find in the bush.
Our family reared pigs,cows and chickens. We grew all of our food but it was always limited. There was never any “leftovers” at our table.
In 1951 an uncle of mine came to visit from Australia. He became my sponser for my confirmation. He told me many stories of Australia and mentioned that he owned a tractor. I asked him if he would sponser me to come to Australia. It took another year before all the paperwork was in place. So in May of 1952 at the ripe old age of 13 I embarked on a sea voyage on my own for Australia. Most of my voyage was spent in the kitchens working with the cooks as I then had access to all the food I could eat.
My uncle met me at Brisbane seaport and we travelled by train to his farm in Babinda
my uncle had promised my parents he would send me to school for 2 years. After 2 weeks at school sitting in year 2 , not speaking the language and being made fun of I told my uncle school was not for me. His response was “well if you don’t want to go to school then get out into the paddocks and work”.
I began work immediately on the farm which grew sugar cane.
It had cost $165 for my fare so I then had to pay this back. I was earning $6 per week and paying $3 for board and lodging I was able to pay my debt in a bit more than a year.
I soon found that I could find further employment working for other farmers on my days off. I had made lots of friends with other boys in Babinda so by 1957 I had formed a gang and began cutting cane on contract. When the cane season finished I heard that many other cutters were going to Mareeba to work on the tobacco farms so I was keen to have another adventure.
I managed to find a farmer in Dimbulah who was willing to take me on as I had never seen tobacco before. I fitted right in to the Dimbulah community as 85% of the population were migrants.
After doing the seasons “tobacco than cane” I was fortunate enough to find a farm where I could share farm the tobacco. By this time I had married and over the next 8 years my wife and I had 4 beautiful daughters.
Tobacco farming was not easy but to me it was just another challenge.
My ambition was always to one day own my own farm. After many struggles and heartache I was eventually able to buy my farm in 1971.
I grew tobacco for 31 years and when I could see that the industry had little future I took the “buy-out offer” in 1993 and then started my next new adventure. I became very interested in the growing of ti-tree for the extraction of ti-tree oil.
So in 1993 I grew my first ti-tree crop. I loved this new industry I had started but by the age of 69 I decided to sell. We had 4 daughters who had all received college educations and were not interested in farming. As I had always loved the Tableland and especially the Mareeba Shire I then retired to Mareeba.
I did enjoy my earlier years in Babinda but Mareeba is where I enjoyed the most.
If I was to live my life over I would not change a thing. It was a good decision to migrate and an even better one to move to the Mareeba District.
Janet Greenwood General Manager
Janet commenced work with the Mareeba Heritage Centre in July 2016. She had the vision to create this project and was instrumental in acquiring funds and putting the right people in place to bring this project together. Janet is passionate about community engagement and development.
Al Kirton NQ Radio Group General Manager
Since the age of 20, Al has been part of the radio industry working at stations 4VL, 4CD, 4RO, 2ST, 2LT, 3BO, 4ZR, 4VL (again) 4KZ, KOOL FM, 4AY, KIK FM & 4AM. Al’s former roles have included announcer, salesman, sales promotion manager, sales manager and part owner. He is a member of the CRA Quarter Century Club, Institute of Company Directors, Wireless Institute Australia, Innisfail Baptist Family Centre and is a licenced Amateur Radio Operator with the call sign of VK4FFKZ. His interests include bushwalking, cooking, music and 4 wheel driving.
Angela Musumeci Volunteer Project Officer
Angela was born in Mareeba but like most young people left to pursue a career in Corrections and then Community Services. On retirement, she returned to her home town and is happy to be contributing to progression and preservation.