First published on Farm Weekly by Bree Smith

Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia (RASWA) volunteer Teresa Rocchi credits her Macedonian heritage for her great work ethic.

“If you sit down for five minutes, you’re lazy in Macedonian culture,” Ms Rocchi said.

“I think that might be why I’ve always kept busy my whole life.”

Now at 85 years old, her 25 years of service to RASWA was recognised at the organisation’s Agricultural Hall of Fame event last month, held at David Buttfield House at the Claremont Showgrounds.

Born in Bridgetown and having grown up on a tobacco farm at Middlesex, between Manjimup and Pemberton, Ms Rocchi left school at just 14 years old.

“Dad had a stroke which left him paralysed down one side of his body, so he sold the farm, which belonged to the bank anyway, and we moved to Joondanna Heights and I got a job,” Ms Rocchi said.

“I always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about not having an education, so my whole life I’ve gone about educating myself in any way I can.”

After working as a delivery girl and then receptionist for solicitor firm Stone Jams and Co, Ms Rocchi quit that job when she married her late husband, William (Bill) Rocchi in 1959 and raised their two children, Anthony and Lisa.

Bill worked for Wesfarmers as the local representative for the Serpentine, Pinjarra, Keysbrook and Waroona regions at the Midland Saleyards and when he died in December 1991, Ms Rocchi sold their Murray Grey cattle farm and moved to Fremantle.

Having showcased their cattle at the Perth Royal Show over the years, it was mainly through her friendship with former RASWA president Lou Giglia that Ms Rocchi first became a volunteer for the organisation.

While president of RASWA, Mr Giglia conceived and established the Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1999 and found sponsors to refurbish David Buttfield House and fund the annual induction luncheon and ceremony.

Mr Giglia asked Ms Rocchi for her assistance in the refurbishment of the building which was the administration centre for Claremont Speedway before the organisation vacated the premises in April 2020.

“I chose the colours, bought the antique furniture, got new doors made and quotes for lighting etc. so I was the runaround girl for the project,” Ms Rocchi said.

Coinciding with RASWA’s initiative to establish the Agricultural Hall of Fame in the years since the building has been its home, housing all of the inductees portraits.

From then on Ms Rocchi’s role within the organisation quickly expanded, as she became a member of the RASWA’s agricultural art committee and, one year later, was appointed its chief steward.

“While on the committee I had this great idea that we should do some country workshops, so I would take a city professional artist and do a one or two day workshop at places like Koorda, Beverley and Merredin and they were a huge success,” Ms Rocchi said.

“We would find a local co-ordinator who would enrol the participants and then we would go and stay at the local pub in each town and help teach the locals.

“I also had a contract with Jacksons where I would sell art supplies to those people who were attending the workshops so they didn’t have to come to Perth, Midland or Bunbury to buy their supplies.”

After a period of time, Ms Rocchi wrote a letter to the society suggesting that its agricultural art show be combined with the Perth Royal Show’s main open art exhibition.

“I thought, why have two committees and art shows when you can just have one?” Ms Rocchi said.

“So after that I was invited onto the open art exhibition committee and became its chief steward.”

With her hands full, Ms Rocchi gave up her position on the open art committee after she accepted an invitation to sit on the Agricultural Hall of Fame committee in 2001.

“There was only one woman on it at the time and they needed more female representation,” Ms Rocchi said.

“I agreed to do it and really loved it, as it gave you the opportunity to meet the most amazing people.”

Having worked at every Perth Royal Show in some capacity for the past 25 years, Ms Rocchi said, mostly due to her age, she was now done with that part of her volunteering efforts.

Despite that, she continues to serve on the Agricultural Hall of Fame selection panel that she first joined in 2008.

Having witnessed first hand the evolution of the Perth Royal Show over the years, Ms Rocchi said she hoped RASWA would continue to embrace its role in “bringing the country to the city”.

“It’s important that city people are given the opportunity to embrace the country and agriculture, so I hope that important task continues to be remembered by the organisation as time goes on,” she said.

RASWA president David Thomas thanked Ms Rocchi for her tireless work for the organisation over the past 25 years.

“She has spent every show here, making sure that everything is set up and closed down and introducing people to all of the marvellous agricultural people that we have on the wall of fame,” Mr Thomas said.

“We all thank her for her contribution.”