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Carmela Palermo profilo

Carmela Rocca

Carmela Rocca was born on the 17th of July 1940, in Sambiase (now Lamezia Terme), in the province of Catanzaro. The second of the six children of Giuseppina Pagliaro and Nicola Rocca, Carmela received her first marriage proposal at the age of 15: she was proposed to by Vincenzo Palermo, a fellow countryman who had known her since they were children and had emigrated to Australia in 1952. Because of her young age, Carmela's parents turned down the proposal.

Vincenzo and Carmela kept in touch by mail over the years and a new offer of marriage arrived when Carmela was 17 and studying at high school. This time, the proposal was accepted. As Vincenzo was in Australia and could not afford to travel back to Italy “just” to get married, and as it was considered “improper” for an unmarried woman to travel alone, the couple married by proxy on the 15th of September 1957. Marriage by proxy meant that the marriage rite could be celebrated even in the absence of one of the spouses, replaced for the occasion by a relative. Carmela's brother, Santo, stood in for her husband during the ceremony.

Shortly after the wedding, Carmela flew to Australia alone, as she was now a married woman, to join her husband and start their life together in the new country. During their first months in Australia, they lived in a house bought by Vincenzo and his sister. Carmela taught sewing from home. Later, in 1958, Vincenzo, his sister and brother-in-law bought a farm, where they all lived together, in a little house with no electricity, sanitation or running water.

The family lived and worked on the farm for the next nine years. Carmela found things very hard because she was not used to such strenuous work. Later, Carmela and Vincenzo built their own house and gave up farming: Vincenzo found a job at Telecom and Carmela worked on the assembly line of a factory, as well as doing piecework for a clothing factory.

Still passionate about her studies, after raising six children Carmela obtained a high school equivalency diploma and went on to study English at RMIT University in Melbourne.


Testimonial compiled in collaboration with CO.AS.IT. Melbourne.


  1. 1940

    Carmela Rocca was born on the 17th of July 1940, in Sambiase (now Lamezia Terme).

  2. 1957

    When Carmela was 17 she married by proxy on the 15th of September.

  3. 1957

    Shortly after the wedding, Carmela flew to Australia alone.