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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Politics »

Maria Tence on the rise of Italian Fascism and anti-fascism in Melbourne during the 1920s and 1930s

Mara Moustafine and Maria Tence.

Historian and museum curator Maria Tence describes the rise of Italian Fascism in Melbourne during the 1920s and 1930s.



Date Added:

27 March 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

9.1 MB






We need to put this into perspective, the Italians here were – the small community that was here was very proud of its culture, as I said, they were participating in opera, they were supporting opera people coming from Italy and touring, , (Francesco) De Pinedo had come from Italy (in 1925) on one of the first flights – cross-Atlantic flights, so there was a lot of proud, pride in the community. And when Mussolini came into power and he was such a strong figure, that was just another vehicle on which they were able to convey their pride. So being a black shirt and being a fascist, was not about the politics of Europe, was – it was about an identity. It was about being proud of their heritage, being proud of being Italian.


I think there was the average Italian that was here, didn’t see it as strongly connected to politics. They basically saw it as a way to reflect their own cultural pride. However, as Mussolini gained power and as the war and Nazism started to melt that started to change. Because then what happened in the community, it – there was a clear division between the black shirts, those of the Italian community that were seeing it as a patriotic statement, to be fascist and seen as a – seen as patriotic to wear black shirts, against those in the community who perhaps were more recent immigrants and could see what was happening in Europe was quite different to what the perception was in here – in Australia. And so there was a clear division. And then the anti-fascist movement started.


And then the north-south division occurred as well, because it was seen that the black shirts and the fascists were more those who came from Sicily in the Aeolian Islands and yet the anti-fascists were those who’d come from northern Italy and in particular Lombardy and Venice, so there was this division that was happening there as well.


And that was basically in opposition to the clear politics that was happening in Italy. And this idea that the Italians here were being spied upon and so I think it was that – at that time, individuals became very cluey about mobilising the community for their own personal agenda, and there were certain individuals both fascist and anti-fascist movements that decided that you know, they could gain. There were individuals who could see whether for business or for their own political agenda, gathered the support of the broader community behind ideas that they wanted to pursue.


End transcript