Antonella Salpietro first joined ANU as a Visiting Fellow in 1988. She initially intended to stay only for a couple of years, but her love for Australia, her strong association with ANU and new friendships led her to stay. More than 30 years on, that deep connection has endured and made an impact on the University and the broader community.
"ANU was my first experience in academia here and also gave me an insight into the Australian community,'' she says. "And since then that connection has evolved with many opportunities to be engaged, through public lectures, presentations and open days."
A visit to the Great Barrier Reef made a huge impression and inspired a deep interest in marine ecology. "It is one of the wonders of the world, critical for the planet's marine ecology and must be preserved for future generations."
In 2008, she set up the Antonella Salpietro Prize for Marine Ecology to recognise a student's commitment to study the marine environment and contribute to its preservation. It also marked the twentieth anniversary since she joined ANU as a Visiting Fellow.
"The marine environment is an important part of our culture. At the beach we are all equal, and I think that is an important reflection of the Australian identity." The prize has been awarded every year since 2008.
In recent years, Antonella has extended her generosity by setting up the Tina and Tano Salpietro Award, funding internships to the Kimberley region. The award will support ANU students undertaking paralegal work as part of the Kimberley Community Legal Services (KCLS) – ANU partnership. Antonella has named this scholarship after her parents, Tina and Tano Salpietro, to acknowledge their strong sense of social justice and solidarity towards those experiencing disadvantage.
“This partnership is really important to address the legal needs of the local community,” says Antonella. “And also to give the students a first-hand experience of the issues faced by the Aboriginal peoples, which may also escalate if they are not addressed when they arise due to insufficient legal or paralegal staff
The work experience and increased awareness gained through the award equips students for a legal career with the required sensitivity to the culture and challenges faced by Indigenous people living in remote areas.
Having also made a bequest to ANU, she truly believes in giving back to the institution from which she feels she has gained so much.
“ANU is at the forefront of research and the academic standard is really very high. Having worked here, I have gained a better understanding and appreciation of Australian society and culture, and the pivotal role that Australia can play in leading research and educating the emerging generations.”