Letizia de Rosa's father first arrived in Melbourne in the late 1940s as a ‘runaway’, disembarking from a ship where he was working as a bartender. According to Letizia, the working conditions on the ship were exploitative and his father's decision to leave the ship was an act of protest and perhaps even activism. Soon he found himself in a country whose language he could not speak, alone and worried about being found by the authorities:
He went and sat at the Melbourne station on the steps there and cried . . . he cried because was the loneliest moment . . . that was the loneliest moment of his life; he said he cried because he didn't know what direction he was going to go and how he would be welcome because he knew he was a run-away and really he was not welcome at all.
He decided to move to Queensland, initially to a very small town in the countryside where he hoped to avoid being found by the authorities. However, the only jobs available for him there were very hard, with terrible conditions, such as cutting cane in the rain. Finally he settled in Cairns because the day he arrived there ‘it was a sunny day . . . and Cairns was absolutely beautiful’.