On behalf of the Committee, I am pleased to provide an overview of the Society’s main activities over the past twelve months.
Our Society turned 60 last June and much of the Committee’s attention in the preceding months was devoted to ensuring that our celebration befitted the occasion. To commemorate the historic milestone and provide tangible recognition of the contribution many of those who preceded us at the helm of the Society, we produced and published a short history of the Society curated by Yvette Devlin with research assistance by Sandra Catizone. We were very pleased that the founding Secretary Enrico Taglietti, the longest serving past President, Prof John Molony, and other significant contributors to the Society’s success were able to join in the celebrations kindly hosted by the Italian Ambassador (H.E. Pier Francesco Zazo) at his official residence. We were also grateful to the ACT Chief Minister (Andrew Barr) who kindly hosted an official morning tea at the Legislative Assembly for the Committee and some 30 members in recognition of the Society’s 60 years of service to the Canberra community.
Turning to the Society’s regular activities, our results for the year were reasonably satisfactory. Tony Hanrahan, our Treasurer, will shortly provide details of the financial performance. In 2017, student enrolments were lower than in the previous year, but more than half of the decline was due to a drop in enrolments in the arts course which attracted only six enrolments (17 fewer that the previous year). Although conditions continue to be depressed, enrolments so far this year are tracking higher than last year, thanks in part to a more focused advertising strategy on social media.
The Society’s cultural program followed its traditional format of engaging participating members with a series of interesting and appealing presentations as well as occasional social events. We are continuing the successful experiment of live teleconferences with guests from notable Italian institutions. We have also been planning to provide members with new experiences outside the traditional format in the months ahead. In particular, we hope that some of these new activities will attract greater participation by younger generations.
As the longest-established, currently active, Italian community association in Canberra, the Dante Alighieri Society plays a prominent role in Italian community affairs and events. Our Choir invariably performs at significant Italian community events such as Republic Day celebration, the annual Italian Festa in the Embassy gardens and functions organised by other Italian associations. The Choir is also in popular demand at broader community events and thus plays an admirable role as an ambassador of the Society in Canberra and Italian culture in the broader region. We are indebted to its musical director, managers, musicians, lead singers and the growing number of members for their commitment and dedication.
The Society is a major stakeholder in the efforts to sustain the Italian Cultural Centre at Forrest and for the second year running has donated its share of funds raised from “Piazza Italia” activities at the National Multicultural Festival to help with the upkeep of the Centre. The Society’s long-term aim is to make the Italian Cultural Centre its natural home and base for all its activities. The importance of this aim is underscored by ongoing changes in the administration of the Notaras Multicultural Centre, which are increasingly constraining the Society’s operational flexibility.
The success of our Society is underpinned by the broad community of volunteers who generously devote a large chunk of their leisure time to manage the Society’s affairs and to help organise and run many of its activities. They are highly deserving of our deep gratitude. I commend particularly the dedication and commitment of the members of the Committee; the volunteer conversation group leaders; the editors of the Dante Review; the members who regularly respond to our calls for volunteers to help at community events; and all those who assist behind the scenes with the operation of technical equipment and other tasks.
I also gratefully acknowledge the dedication and support provided by our office staff and by the teachers of our language courses.
In closing, I thank all members for sharing the vision of the International Dante Alighieri Society family and making our local branch one of the most active in the Australian DAS network.