26 May, 2021

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. F. Pangallo: 

That this house— 

  1. Acknowledges the passing ofVilmosMilisits OAM; 
  2. Acknowledges his outstanding contribution to South Australia and Australianbusinesses;
  3. Acknowledges the international success of his bakery business,Vili's;
  4. Recognises his generosity and support for many individuals, charities,clubsand businesses; and 
  5. Conveys its sincerest condolences to his wife, Rosemary, theirchildrenand their extended families. 

(Continued from 5 May 2021.) 

The Hon. J.S. LEE (16:56): I rise today to wholeheartedly support the motion moved by the Hon. Frank Pangallo to acknowledge the sad passing of a remarkable South Australian, Vilmos Milisits OAM. I join the mover, the Premier in the other place, the Hon. Stephen Wade and other honourable members to pay tribute and respect to Vili and to convey my heartfelt condolences to his beloved wife, Rosemary; their children, Alison and Simon; their grandchildren, Luke and Josh; Helen Rice; and the extended family during this sad time. 

It was a great honour to join His Excellency the Governor, Premier Marshall, many dignitaries, family members, business members and community leaders at a moving state memorial service to honour the legacy of Vili Milisits on Friday 30 April 2021 at the Adelaide Festival Theatre, a venue which he would have approved of. 

I did a quick Google search on the name Vili Milisits OAM and some 53,000 results came up on the screen. It goes to show that Vili was well known and much respected, and not only because he was a successful business leader. He was much more than that. Vili was well loved because of who he was and what he stood for. Vili's belief that success comes from hard work, commitment and care has been quoted many times. He represented all the above and lived his life to the fullest. His legacy will continue to inspire us forever. 

He was a proud Australian and a role model for many refugee and migrant communities. He called himself Hungarian by birth but Australian by choice. I am sure we all agree with Graham Cornes, who was MC at Vili's memorial service at the Adelaide Festival Centre, when he said, 'Vili had a special touch of magic and he was a man with boundless generosity.' 

I have had the pleasure of knowing Vili and Rosemary for a long time. I remember meeting him at a business seminar organised by the former Department of Industry and Trade when Vili was a keynote speaker, sharing his success story with the business community about his bakery business and his export strategies promoting South Australian products to the world. Vili's products can be found in many different stores throughout Australia, from the local deli to the major supermarkets, and Vili is not just a household name in Australia because Vili's bakery has expanded beyond Australia and has been supplying quality bakery products worldwide to 24 countries in Asia, Europe and the Pacific. 

Vili's story of success, from humble beginnings to an iconic South Australian business, is one that moves many hearts. With hard work, commitment and passion, Vili and Rosemary, life and business partners, established a business that was to eventually become one of south Australia's greatest success stories. Deeply grateful for the opportunities given to them in Australia and aware of their community needs, Vili and Rosemary recognised the importance of giving back to the community that supported them on their journey. They have actively contributed to the development of their industry and to the prosperity of the working community. 

Until the time when he became seriously ill, Vili was working five to seven days a week alongside his staff, showing the same passion and care for his products that he did almost 50 years ago when he first began. He was passionate about his business and, more importantly, he was passionate about people. He worked in the bakery and served food at the cafe during lunch and enjoyed chatting with his customers. 

I want to provide a timeline about Vili for the public record. In 1948, Vilmos Milisits was born in Hungary. In 1956, the Milisits family moved to Australia as refugees, escaping political unrest in Hungary. Vili left school at the age of 14 to work at a cake shop in Burnside, before starting his own venture on Manchester Street in Mile End, where the original Cafe de Vili's now is. In 1967, Rosemary and Vili Milisits were engaged. They met whilst Rosemary was working as a nurse. Rosemary joined Vili soon after at their first continental cake shop in Adelaide. In 1978, Vili's continental bakery was established. 

In 1995, former Premier of South Australia the Hon. Dean Brown and Wolf Blass launched halal products for export. The building itself was reopened by former Premier the Hon. Dean Brown. During the time of the Grand Prix that same year, Vili was working alongside the government in conjunction with the Australia Malaysia Business Council, which promoted a trade delegation to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I remember that time very well because I also worked at the Grand Prix that weekend. It was evidence that Vili was a strong marketer. He recognised there was a potential market overseas and he seized every opportunity to promote South Australian products. 

In 1997, Norwood won the SANFL premiership. From his early days, Vili was a great supporter of the Norwood Football Club. As a young 12 year old, he became a Norwood supporter. He picked up cans and bottles at the oval for pocket money. Later on, he became a major sponsor. The SANFL premiership for Norwood was something that he recorded as one of the highlights of his life. In 1998, Vili was involved in the Variety Bash. He supplied the biggest cake to the variety club in celebration of the 20th anniversary. 

Vili cited 2000 as a very memorable time in his life because he met Muhammad Ali. During the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Vili met Muhammad Ali during an Adelaide visit. Rosemary and Vili said they were gifted a boxing glove from Ali's match in Manila. That was something they treasured. Vili's cafe in Mile End displays many memorabilia items collected over the business's lifetime, and one of those is that famous boxing glove. 

Vili judged many food and fibre awards. He also appeared in Who magazine for an article the 'Upper Crust'. His contribution to SA business development and the food industry is a formidable force that we will and should always recognise. He has been flying the flag for South Australian products, and the famous 'Couldn't you go a Vili's' posters were a fantastic marketing slogan. He won many Premier's food awards, and he and Rosemary have been recognised as proud Australians, and were both awarded in 2005 an OAM for their contribution to business development and the community. 

He loved being a talking head, so he appeared on radio supporting community radio station Radio Adelaide, promoting the English language as well as other languages, with 'Australia Here We Come!, which was a special radio program promoting refugees and migrants as part of Refugee Week. In 2006 he appeared in SA Life magazine, which was a very proud moment where he featured. In 2008 he was the winner of the inaugural Governor's Multicultural Awards for the private category. 

Vili never forgot the second chance he was offered in Australia as a Hungarian refugee, and he paid it forward throughout his life. Vili and Rosemary employed 360 staff with HR policies that support youth and mature age employment. Disadvantaged people made up 10 per cent of their workforce. They have employed people from multicultural and disadvantaged backgrounds, new arrivals to this country, young offenders and Indigenous people, which they were most proud of. 

Some of you may know that in 2010 local artist Dale Chen painted an Archibald Prize painting, and Vili was part of the Archibald Prize and was very proud of that moment. There are significant time lines that I mentioned today that were captured at the state memorial service to remember a giant, a legend with a big heart. One of the songs that was played in the afternoon memorial service was I am Australian. I recall one of Vili's best mates Michael Pratt (Pratty) sitting in the row just behind me, and he said, 'Jing, can you please make sure you sing the song because Vili will be singing with you.' 

Vili and Rosemary have sponsored many of my multicultural events, where we invited hundreds of people to enjoy Vili's pies and pasties, while sharing the Australian culture with migrants, and we would always sing the song I am Australian. I know that is true because Vili and Rosemary have generously supported the community, which has acknowledged his great work and will remember him. I still remember that Vili was always laughing and singing: 

We are one, but we are many 

And from all the lands on earth we come 

We'll share a dream and sing with one voice 

I am, you are, we are Australian. 

Vale, Vili, you were one of a kind. We will miss you dearly. Your loving memories and legacies will live in our hearts and minds forever. Thank you, the Hon. Frank Pangallo, for moving this motion so that we all have the opportunity to pay tribute to Vili for his enormous contribution to the community, to South Australia, and to the business sector. I wholeheartedly commend the motion.