John Kinder, a professor who has taught Italian culture and language at The University of Western Australia for 26 years, has been presented with the prestigious Commendatore della Stella d'Italia (Commander of the Star of Italy) award.
It is the one of the few times the award has been presented in Western Australia since the Order of the Star of Italy awards were created in 1947 by the first President of the Republic of Italy to honour Italians and foreigners who make outstanding contributions to Italy and the Italian way of life.
Associate Professor Kinder, who is Chair of UWA's Discipline of European Languages and Studies, received the award - Italy's second highest honour - at a reception in the Perth Town Hall on Monday.
Associate Professor Kinder first studied Italian as a university student in Wellington, New Zealand. "I fell in love with the language, the culture, the history of Italy," he said. "Learning Italian offered me a new way of being in the world, an experience of an intensity of living. There is great humanity in Italian culture - humanism was invented in Italy in the Renaissance."
After completing his Honours in Italian in NZ, he worked as an English teacher and translator in Milan for several years, where he met his wife, Silvia, with whom he has three sons, three daughters and a grandchild. He also taught Italian at James Cook and Flinders Universities.
In 1988, he was invited to UWA - which in 1929 had been the first university in Australia to teach Italian. Apart from four years as the first Director of the Arts Faculty's Multimedia Centre, Associate Professor Kinder has taught Italian to thousands of students, about half of them with an Italian background.
Since the University introduced its New Courses structure in 2012, which encourages students to undertake units of study across a broad range of faculties and disciplines, the numbers of students studying Italian and other languages at UWA has doubled, he said.
He was recommended for the award by the Italian Embassy in Canberra. Over many years, Associate Professor Kinder has collaborated with the Italian Embassy and its consul in WA to organise concerts, lectures, teacher in-service courses and other events that promote Italian culture.
"Contact with Italy changed my life and I enjoy giving my students critical intellectual exposure to the same language and culture," he said.