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Fran Sciarretta, Office admin, Committee. Member since 2008
I was actually born Francesca Sciarretta in Italy in the Abruzzi – if you have seen the movie Red Dog, you know what I am talking about! Like 90% of my village, my family migrated, all of us escaping poverty and lack of employment. We left in 1956, Dad having been the advance party to set things up in Melbourne. The photo shows me (on the right) with my mother and sister, before leaving.
I left school at 14 to help support my family and ended up in the Commonwealth Public Service as a stenographer. I still remember with dread my first day in the typing pool. Life got a bit exciting when word got around that I was a crack stenographer and all the engineers decided to test me out with their weird and wonderful technical terminology. I survived it but gradually moved into administration and at 22 became the first woman in Melbourne to work in the Dept of Shipping and Transport’s Seafarers Engagement Centre, helping administer the Australian Navigation Act as it applied to the safe crewing of ships in our waters. It was challenging and fun and very interesting.
Eventually I ended up in the Union movement, initially as an employee running the Union Education School of the Victorian Branch of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. I did this for seven years and still say it was the best job ever: it was totally suited to my personality and showed me that I was actually a very good trainer/teacher.
In among all this I managed to get divorced, re-partnered, had a child, did some study, got on the School Council, did lots of community stuff, and did a stint as a Melbourne City Councillor, only to get sacked by Kennett. After this, I decided I had been through some pretty tough times and therefore could cope with being an elected Official of my union, which by this stage was called CPSU (PSU Branch) – lots of amalgamations! I did this for six years and then went into the community housing sector where I was pretty much a Jill-of-all-trades till retirement in 2010.
I was attracted to the U3A because I had always wanted to work with flowers but was not prepared to pay the exorbitant prices required to do it privately, so I was delighted to find that Melbourne City U3A had a Floristry class and hence began my involvement. Unfortunately I am not very artistic, so I suspect I made the correct career choices!
My passions and interests are broad and many but I love cooking, wine, opera (especially the really emotional ones by Verdi), and all kinds of music and dance. I read a lot and am interested in politics and human rights issues, etc. I am also a keen traveller, which I want to do more of – but feel I have been pretty lucky to be able to do as much as I have.
These days I do more volunteering than attending classes, but I plan to redress the balance in 2012. I get a lot of rewards from volunteering, including working with wonderful people, learning new things and having to rise to the challenge. I feel that although at times I am working very hard for no monetary rewards, it is different from being in a ‘job’ and more fun. Plus it gives me something to talk to my long-term partner about over dinner – we all need to gossip about something that is not family or friends!
Fran Sciarretta, 19 September 2011