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Australia Day right at home at Fyshwick Markets

Emma Macdonald

As we come together this week to celebrate Australia Day there are two reasons to think about the Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets.

The first is that no Australia Day would be complete without summer fruit on a platter or smothered across a cream-laden pavlova.

The second is that a visit to the markets is a first-hand experience of the great multicultural traditions that makes this country great.

The markets are one of Canberra’s most successful immigrant stories. All the fruit shops are owned and operated by first, second or even third-generation immigrants from Italy, Lebanon and the United Kingdom.

Indeed, one of the founders of the markets, the great Giuseppe “Joe” Giugni’s life story defines what Australia Day is all about.

Migrating 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.

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

In 2013 he was awarded a medal in the Order of Australia in the general division for “service to the community through multicultural and charitable organisations”.

Sadly, Joe died earlier this month after years of poor health.

Farm Fresh operator Steve Kaddour, who, along with his three brothers and sister, followed his Lebanese dad Sam into the fruit and veg trade, said it was a blow to lose Joe’s great character from the market.

“Australia Day will not be the same without Joe.”

“But it is a day to be proud of what he helped created here at the markets. We have Lebanese, Italian, Greek, Maltese, New Zealand, Serbian, Croatian all working together. It’s what makes this country great.”

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As does the fresh produce.

“My wife makes a beautiful pavlova on Australia Day and we always have fruit to go with it,” says Steve.

Everyone else tends to have the same idea, making it an extra busy time of year for trade. Stone fruit, cherries, mangos, plums and berries are all at their peak, just in time for lazy summertime barbeques.

In total there are four premium fresh fruit and vegetable shops at the Fyshwick Markets – Ziggy’s, Wiffens, TruGold and Farmfresh. All are independent retailers with different produce, specialities and staff. There is a friendly camaraderie across the U-shaped building as shoppers meander under the shaded walkways and work out what to put on the menu.

“It’s all fresh, it’s all quality produce, it’s in season and we buy the best in the region,” says Dave from Wiffens.

Dave’s grandfather Henry Irvine was a British immigrant builder until he bought a second-hand timber truck that still contained a load of potatoes in the back. Rather than throwing them out, Henry sold them to a café and was hooked on fruit and vegetable sales – giving up his building career to open a fruit shop in Yass in 1953.

Today, his two sons Ken and Jack and his grandsons – including Dave – help operate two of the four successful fruit and veggie stores within the thriving marketplace.

Jack’s family run Wiffens, while Ken Irvine owns Ziggy’s, which last year became the first Canberra shop to take out the title of Greengrocer of the Year last year at the Sydney Markets’ Fresh Awards.

Trugolds is also a family owned and operated business with Italian father and son Tony and Anthony Christoforo operating at the markets since 1972.

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It all makes for one big multicultural melting pot between Thursdays and Sundays.

Dave enjoys the changes that the seasons bring and the interaction with customers and growers. He also has some tips for new customers: If you like to choose your produce in relative peace and calm, then aim to come in on Thursday or Friday. Saturday mornings are peak shopping times, and in-the-know Canberrans searching for a bargain can be found clamouring for produce which gets marked down for quick sale on a Sunday afternoon.

“That’s the time things can get pretty crazy, but it is good for us to be able to clear out any stock that won’t last until the next week. And the customers get a bargain,” says Dave.

“Sometimes on the weekends Canberra can be pretty quiet so it’s great to bring the family down here for all the noise and atmosphere,” adds Ken.

This includes the cry of the fruit and veg spruikers (they only spruik on a Sunday) who can be heard keeping up an endless stream of dialogue over what is new, fresh, or delicious. They will tempt even the fussiest little eaters with an offer of a sliver of fresh fruit, and alert the savvy customers to sudden drops in prices.

“It is impossible to experience it other than standing right here. It’s a lot of fun,” says Ken.

the essentials
When: Fyshwick Market trading hours are 7am to 5.30pm Thursday to Sunday
Open Australia Day Thursday January 26
Where: 12 Dalby Street Fyshwick

This is a sponsored post but author’s opinions remain her own. Read our Sponsored Post Policy for more information.

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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