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Subject: Early History »

Maria Tence on early Italian settlement

Mara Moustafine and Maria Tence.

Historian and museum curator Maria Tence describes early Italian settlement



Date Added:

26 March 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

11.3 MB




There are two very distinct periods of migration from Italy and that is the period of the gold rush and then the post World War 2 period, that’s not to say that there wasn’t migration in between. But they were the two distinct periods. The first period was an interesting one because it was a time where there was upheaval politically in Italy and there was a strong group of anarchists who were leaving Italy for many reasons, but primarily because the unification campaign had – the first one had failed and the leader of the unification campaign, Mazzini had been exiled and so were all his followers.
And that group of Italians were highly educated and usually from the upper class or the nobility. And a group of them came to Australia and to New Zealand and they contributed significantly to Australian development, that would have been in the 1860s, it started in very small numbers in the 1850s for the gold rush and then it increased in the 1860s and 1870s. So there were a group of Italians that had gone to the gold rush area, in particular Daylesford and Hepburn and a small group had come directly to Melbourne as well. And in that group of Italians there were some eminent people, such as Carlo Catani, such as Baracchi, Gagliardi who was a librarian, Checchi so there were a group of you know, quite prominent Italians who were involved in Australian society and contributed to the Board of Works. Catani designed the St Kilda foreshore and St Kilda Road.
In Daylesford the community was a very unified community, they came, they saw that there was an opportunity to form and shape a community and became active citizens in the shaping of the area of Daylesford and Hepburn. The – for example the story of the macaroni factory is very interesting.
The macaroni factory was set up to supply pasta to the Italians of the area but then the demand got so great that they started supplying Italians in Melbourne. They also started The Hepburn Democratic Club at the macaroni factory. And part of that was to ensure that there was participation from the community into the shaping of the area of Daylesford. So, the community that came was committed, they saw the opportunities, initially I think they thought that they’d make their fortune and go back, but then they realised that, you know, it was an opportunity to be involved.
The people that went to Daylesford were fortunate in that they went to an environment that was a very similar to the one they’d left behind, so the landscape reminded them of home, they were able to build houses from the materials and the stone that they found. So they felt at ease and they became settled very quickly in the Daylesford area. So we had that pocket of Italians there. And then similarly, it was happening in Melbourne as well, where the opportunity to contribute to the community outweighed going back to, you know, possibly to more turmoil and a classist society.
Here, these people saw that there was an egalitarian society and the opportunities were definitely there.
End transcript