Frank Di Blasi OAM makes retirement look exhausting.
The 76-year-old’s involvement in the Italian and broader community has barely slowed since he left the role he held as community organiser at the Italian Assistance Association CO.AS.IT. for 45 years, where he was responsible for establishing 89 Senior Italian Citizen Clubs throughout Victoria.
‘After I retired, I set up a couple more, so I’ve set up 91 clubs in the Melbourne metropolitan area, and also in 22 different localities in Victoria,’ Frank says.
‘I'm only retired from paid employment but I'm working more than ever before. I’m still heavily contributing to a lot of community work. In fact, I'm President of the local Avondale Heights and East Keilor Residents Association, which I established 20 years ago.’
Amongst countless other roles with various community organisations, Frank is also President of the Italian concert band Vincenzo Bellini, which has him organising concerts and performances for the 45-piece ensemble.
This year will be the 38th that Frank has been involved in the Victorian Seniors Festival – having organised a luncheon as part of the very first festival back in 1982, when it began as Seniors Citizens’ Week, with guests including the then-Premier John Cain and Opposition Leader Jeff Kennett.
‘We had over 815 people in a large, newly-opened ballroom to celebrate the contribution of the Italian elderly to their own families and to the community and to Australia as well,’ Frank says.
His hard work has been recognised. In 1984, the Commonwealth Government presented him with an Order of Australia Medal and, in 1986, the Italian Government bestowed on him the title of Cavaliere al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, the equivalent of a British knighthood.
‘I always felt that we should do the best we can in our lives,’ Frank says. ‘I feel happy and proud I've been given the opportunity to do something to improve the quality of life of so many people.’
Watch the Italian Seniors Community 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined interviews and performance.