Italian WWII medals granted to a Bunbury family

Connie Bucchino (centre) and her daughter Tina Whitham recently travelled to Canberra to her father Guiseppe Cosenza's Italian war medals, obtained with the help of former Bunbury MLA John Castrilli.
Connie Bucchino (centre) and her daughter Tina Whitham recently travelled to Canberra to her father Guiseppe Cosenza's Italian war medals, obtained with the help of former Bunbury MLA John Castrilli.

A four year effort to have her father’s service in the Second World War formally recognised recently concluded for Bunbury’s Connie Bucchino with a trip to Canberra and a meeting with the Italian ambassador. 

Mrs Bucchino’s father Guiseppe Cosenza joined the Italian Armed Forces in 1940 and saw active service in Africa during WWII. 

In 2013, 20 years after Mr Cosenza had passed away, a friend told Mrs Bucchino that she had successfully applied to the Italian government to obtain her father’s war medals. 

Mrs Bucchino began to make inquiries and found that her father was eligible for similar recognition. But as she began the application process she realised it was difficult, with the Italian government repeatedly asking for more information and proof of identity and military service. 

John Castrilli, the Member for Bunbury at the time, offered his assistance and for more than three years, he worked his way through the system, repeatedly conversing with overseas officials in Italian and amassing a large file of documents. 

When he retired from office in March, he turned the file over to Federal Member for Forrest Nola Marino who enlisted the help of Foreign Affairs minister Julie Bishop to finalise the process.

“The lesson from this experience is never give up – my whole office persevered for many years and while it took a long time for the Italian government to complete their due diligence, we are pleased to have a good outcome,” Mr Castrilli said. 

“I’m glad we stuck it out until the end, I didn’t like that the file remained unfinished when I retired from politics.”

After the Italian government confirmed Mr Cosenza was to be awarded a medal of service and a meritorious cross, Mrs Bucchino and her family travelled to Canberra to accept them from Italian ambassador Pier Zazo. 

“It was so nice to visit Canberra for the ceremony – it means a lot after all these years to have what dad did for his country to be recognised,” Mrs Bucchino said. 

“He would have been very humbled by this – he never really spoke about the war, it wasn’t something he wanted to dwell on.

“Everyone who fought during that period did so much to make a better world for us.”