Raising the steaks: Community Citizen of the Year aims to increase impact with biggest fundraising idea yet

  • 30 September 2022

Vincenzo Garreffa is truly a man about town. The semi-retired Italian butcher has contributed to local business and food produce since he was just 14 years old, when he became an apprentice at a butcher’s shop. Just two years later, he won the Best Apprentice Butcher of WA Award.

Over the next five decades, Vince would go on to create Inglewood favourite, Mondo Butchers; become a household name with food segments on TV and radio; and book chef appearances at locations from farms to mining sites and private kitchens. He has even cooked steaks on the barbie with Prince Philip during a Royal visit to Perth. Most recently, Vince reached the final five of the West Australian’s search for a new citizen food critic – a role which he said would have kept him active and given him stories to tell his beloved wife of 48 years, Anne.

“I like the stimulation of keeping busy – I’ve got to do something. I need to find a small part-time job to keep active and to leave home in the morning. I try to use what influence I have to put together events that work, be an active community member and represent WA.”

Man holding tray of baked goods

One of Vince’s most important and long-running roles (besides being a husband and father) is that of Lifeline WA Ambassador. For 30 years, he and his volunteers have been raising funds for the charity with food-based events that have even been held in his own backyard. His next event – under the Mondo Community Warriors umbrella – is somewhat on a bigger scale, which he describes as his “swan song”.

“We’re planning a gala masquerade ball on the Matagarup Bridge in 2023. We used to raise $4-500,000 a year, which made the difference between Lifeline continuing service or not. When Covid hit, we raised $460,000 with an event in my backyard – the next day everything was closed down and we spent two years being unable to do anything. However, the corporate world woke up to the impact and importance of people’s mental health, and suddenly overnight, my work was replaced and the weight’s off my shoulders. With this event, I’m hoping to raise enough to cover their rent or give them their own building.”

Man holding paddle at charity auction

For his community contribution and continued support of Lifeline, Vince received a Community Citizen of the Year Award from City of Stirling in 2022. Vince’s connection with Lifeline WA is no accident. While he is the life and soul of any room, and exudes an immeasurable warmth, he has experienced personal struggle and tough times.

“I was suicidal when I was 15; I was a bed-wetter from the moment I came to Australia. My father left when I was a baby, so when we came to Australia, I had a tough new father figure for the first time in my life after four-and-a-half years who would pull out a belt when you were naughty. I don’t carry a shred of anger. At 16, I won the Best Apprentice Butcher of WA Award, and it gave me such confidence, that I stopped wetting the bed. Before then, I thought it was never going to end. So, when I joined Lifeline, I realised how easy it was for people to fall victim for the smallest reasons.”

Man and woman standing talking

Besides a former school teacher who he credits for guiding and inspiring him (while somewhat daydreaming at the thought of her), Vince attributes much of his character and experience to his parents. Being part of an Italian family in Perth, this had a significant impact on him while growing up.

“My father didn’t participate in the Italian community here. We were from the bottom end of Italy, poorer than most. We weren’t allowed to speak English at home, but having the extra language has been a godsend for business. I know what it means to have pride in your language and your culture. My parents gave me the gift of poverty, the gift of love and the gift of an education. Dad died when I was 20 of cancer from smoking, so I’ve never smoked and I don’t drink alcohol. I’ve had a fabulous run.”

Long may it continue.

Nominations are now open for the 2023 Community Citizen of the Year Awards. Nominate before 31 October at

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