Blessing of the Fleet in Port Pirie

21 Sep 2021

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (15:37): It gives me huge pleasure to rise today to talk about a wonderful local event that I attended on Sunday 12 September with my wife, Rebecca. It was in Port Pirie at St Mark's Cathedral. It is locally known as the Blessing of the Fleet celebration. It was a wonderful mass at St Mark's Cathedral. Rebecca and I were made incredibly welcome. The mass was followed by a procession with a wonderful statue of La Madonna dei Martiri, which was physically conveyed a very significant distance from the cathedral to the main boat ramp in Port Pirie.

The weather was unkind on the day, but let me say it made absolutely no difference to the fantastic warm celebration on the day. It was explained to me by Mr Philip Amato, who is the president of the Blessing of the Fleet committee for this year, and his wife, Tina, that their normal tradition is to have a deb ball on the Saturday night beforehand, but unfortunately because of COVID that could not go ahead.

On the Sunday morning, they have the mass in St Mark's, then the procession to the boat ramp, and they were able to go ahead. They have a very short ceremony at the memorial to lost fishermen at Port Pirie and the laying of some flowers, which was able to go ahead. Then traditionally, I am told, there is a bit of food and drink and a celebration and then the procession goes off to a different church for a benediction. As it happened on the day, we went back to St Marks for the benediction. The food and drink could not occur, but everybody understood, because of COVID.

I have to say that it was an absolutely fantastic, warm event. Port Pirie has a tremendous tradition of fishing. This was very close to the 90th time that this event has been held, and Rebecca and I could not have been made more welcome. I would like to particularly thank Mr Dino Gadaleta and his wife, Liz, who hosted us for the day and made sure that we were made very welcome. They could not have looked after us more warmly or more kindly, and really that goes for everybody we met on the day. Many people we knew and were already friends with, some were acquaintances and many we had not met.

It is a fantastic tradition. Dino Gadaleta told me that he had been the president of the organising committee for 40 years until about 10 years ago, and since then Mr Philip Amato has been doing it. It was an outstanding event. The religious aspects—the mass, the ceremony at the memorial and the benediction back at St Mark’s—were all overseen by Bishop Karol Kulczycki, who came to Port Pirie from Western Australia in October last year, and he did a tremendous job. The reverence of the ceremony was absolutely outstanding, and of course he communicated in a very direct and down-to-earth way, so being a part of that with him was especially good as well.

It was lovely for that Sunday to be followed so closely by the 70th anniversary of the Caputo fish shop in Port Pirie, a wonderful family business now run by Maurie Mezzino, who is actually part of the Caputo family. It was a fantastic day. The bishop turned up to Caputo's as well. It was tremendous to be there with many local people also supporting the event. The Mayor of Port Pirie was there, as were the local member, the member for Frome, many other community leaders and members of the local Italian community.

It speaks incredibly well of that community that an event like that has been running for so long, that it manages to capture the tradition of Italian fishermen, that it captures the importance of a cathedral mass and that it is also so welcoming and part of mainstream, everyday life in Port Pirie—a fantastic community.