“I feel very privileged to serve the Hispano-American community all these years”
Country of origin: Chile.
Occupation: Citizen media producer. State of Residency: VIC. Favourite place in Australia: Melbourne. Upon arrival: Surprised by being received and welcomed by a government agent at the airport to direct us to the midway hostel.
By Cristy Abela
Julio Altamirano has volunteered as media producer for the Hispanic and Latin American communities for over 20 years. He is a member of the board for Channel 31 (44 Digital) and the Director of Antena Hispana (a not for profit organisation that produces the popular Spanish TV program “Entre todos/ All together”. He has recently been named convener for all the Spanish speaking programs for radio station 3 ZZZ. He is a celebrated figure within the various Spanish speaking groups for his passion in sharing with audiences what our communities are about.
Contributions to Victoria
Increased awareness of diverse cultural, political, religious, musical and community events organised by the Hispano-American communities across Victoria for over 20 years.
Through his volunteer work he has contributed to social cohesion and sense of belonging of the Hispano-American communities.
Maintaining Antena Hispana TV program alive for 18 years.
Campaigned in support of Channel 31 to be able to maintain the digital signal free to air.
Tell us your story
In the early 70’s during dictatorship times I was living in Valparaíso, Chile. I was working at Casa de Maquinas as mechanic technician and then as a train driver for the State Railway. Around 1973, there were many workforce redundancy and some of them immigrated to Australia. One good friend migrated and kept saying Australia is a good place and that I should come over. So, when the political situation made us feel unsafe I decided it was time to try life in Australia. In 1978 my family and I looked for new horizons and found ourselves in a journey to Victoria. The most valuable object I brought with me from Chile is not an object, it’s my kids. I am so proud of them and their achievements here.
Due to my background I was able to quickly land a job with Ford and later on with Goodyear tires. Unfortunately there was an accident at work and my body took time to heal. This time allowed me to look into other areas of interest I had. Around that time Roberto Morales invited me to volunteer with the North West community radio in Glenroy with his “Coctel Radial program” which started my love for community radio. I then participated with Radio Southern FM with Rosita and Roberto Morales and did some collaboration with Peninsula Radio with María Uría and Gastón Arias. In 2000 I started the “Horizonte Latino program” on radio 3 WBC 94.1 FM at Box hill Town Hall where the program still runs to this day every Thursday night.
One day Alfredo Salgado invited me to see how the television program (started in 1993 by the consul of Spain) by Antena Hispana was produced. He mentioned he had a small job for me. This turned into a full time job and a discovery journey that until today motivates me to ensure the program continues to produce a high quality show that brings the Hispanic and Latin American communities together.
It has been a long path to learn a complete different set of skills like film camera editing, keeping up to date with the latest interview techniques and the convergences of traditional media such as radio, television and press with social media. To keep up with the rapidly changes in technology and trends I studied an advanced diploma for TV production at RMIT and at the moment I am finishing a Bachelor in Digital Media at the Australian Catholic University.
Even though it has been a long learning curve, I feel very privileged to serve the Hispano-American community all these years. I feel it is something printed in my genes as I know that many generations of my ancestors went to great lengths to serve society.
Racism - Unfortunately, I have experienced racism during my journey in Australia. When we arrived we had some neighbours who would call us WOGS, a derogatory term for migrants from Spanish, Greek, Italians, Lebanese, Maltese backgrounds. I guess we looked a bit like any of them and also spoke Spanish so we were all treated with some disrespect for not being from here.
Isolation - Being connected to another place is a challenge, but the pacific Ocean makes me feel connected to Chile. I know that on the other side is Valparaíso with part of my history, the rest of my family and friends from my old neighbourhood, school mates and ex-work colleagues.
Transmitting culture - Their upbringing of our children had been closely linked to Australian values but we wanted our children to be raised with the values of both cultures (the Australian and the Chilean). So we took our kids back to Chile for a couple of years when they were teenagers to make sure they would also experience and obtain some Chilean culture. However they did not cope well as they felt more connected to Australia than to Chile.
Space - The vast spaces that exist in every sphere of Australian life like homes, streets, shopping centres, etc is a big contrast with the high density cities in Chile.
Access to services - In Australia, no matter your level of income you can access social security, free health services and education. All these things foster a happier life and a sense of security. Although there also vulnerable and poor people here, the gap between medium class and poor is not as large as it is in Chile.
Diversity - Victoria is the state of Australia where multiculturalism is assured and where people of different races, religions, languages, and colours are mixed. I appreciate the fact that tolerance is a value that is protected by a multicultural act. In contrast, the diversity in Latin America comes from the different indigenous groups.
Piece of advice
Volunteer - It is a very rewarding experience. Many organisations thrive and survive thanks to the work of volunteers, and I think it is essential to participate in activities you enjoy and share an experience.
Continue to study - Never stop learning, it’s good for the spirit. Studying will open career opportunities and endless possibilities in your life.
In the next few years…
Julio would like to share the knowledge he has acquired with his years of dedication to media production and transfer them to new people. He hopes the community radios, in which he participates in, continue with new volunteers and projects into the future. Julio invites the community to check out the TV and radio programs in Spanish: TV Channel 31 “Entre todos program” every Sunday 11:00 AM and Tuesday 2:00 PM, Radio 3 ZZZ (92.3 FM) “Comunidades/ commmunities program” every Friday 4 to 5 pm and in Radio 3 WBC (94.1 FM) “Horizonte Latino program” every Thursday from 10 PM to 12 AM. If you would like to contact Julio email us at firstname.lastname@example.org