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Selfless service and multicultural generosity has medal in the bag

GIUSEPPE GIUGNI: OAM

Giuseppe Giugni at Fyshwick Markets is chuffed by his award.

Giuseppe Giugni at Fyshwick Markets is chuffed by his award. Photo: Graham Tidy

Giuseppe Giugni's life story defines what Australia Day is all about.

A great big bear of a man who migrated from Italy at the age of 10 after losing his father to war, ''Joe'' arrived on Australian shores in 1950 without any English and just the clothes on his back.

Over the past 63 years he has forged a career, a community and a family in his adopted home.

Known as "the godfather of the Fyshwick Markets", Mr Giugni began Wiffens in 1970, later rallying to expand and improve the markets, becoming its major shareholder and director.

Though currently plagued by ill health and on dialysis, Mr Giugni is still a regular fixture amid the fruit and vegie stalls as he keeps a close eye on the continuing multimillion dollar redevelopment of the Fyshwick Markets. He has been awarded a medal in the Order of Australia in the general division for "service to the community through multicultural and charitable organisations".

For not only does Mr Giugni have an entrepreneurial mind, but a charitable heart.

Over the years Mr Giugni has given lavishly of his time and money to support the National Multicultural Festival, Hartley Lifecare, Diabetes ACT, the Royal Thai embassy, vascular research and development and renal research and development at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, the Australian National Eisteddfod, the Smith Family, and the Australian Red Cross.

He's on the Australia Day Committee and celebrates the event with typical Italian enthusiasm and overarching Aussie pride.

His face may be familiar from the 30 years or so he stood out in the stalls, chatting to families and slicing pieces of fruit for the children, discussing seasonal produce and politics. Or he may be familiar as the Canberra Citizen of the Year, 1999.

Mr Giugni said he was emotional and humbled by the honour.

"For a commoner like me to receive this award, it's really something.

''I came to this country with nothing and this country has given me the freedom to achieve my dream."

"I love Australia because if you are prepared to put in the effort and make the sacrifice, you can achieve the result. I can't stand to see people sitting around doing nothing with their life."

He paid particular tribute to his Thai wife, Chunchai, who had turned him from being "pretty rough to being a bit more diplomatic".

He was thrilled to see the changes at the markets, which respects the integrity of fresh produce and provides a far more comfortable retail experience for customers than the hot tin sheds of years past.

In the fruit trade, Mr Giugni has often been likened to a pineapple - "rough on the outside but sweet on the inside - it's a pretty good description of me people use a lot".

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