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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Politics »

Maria Tence on the internment of Italians during World War 2

Mara Moustafine and Maria Tence.

Historian and museum curator Maria Tence describes the internment of Italians during World War 2, in camps such as Tatura in northern Victoria.



Date Added:

30 March 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

6.9 MB






During the war, the Italians were interned, they were classified as enemy aliens, they were classified as a threat, a lot of the Italians that owned businesses had to close their shops, there was a lot of vandalism occurring against green grocers and restaurants, they weren’t allowed to move without permission from the local police. And those who were seen to be strong individuals or community leaders were interned in various camps. Entire families were taken off farms for example and put into camps.


There was an interesting incident that occurred during the war where the police rounded up all the farmers – the vegetable farmers in Werribee, put them on a truck and took them down to Murchison and you know, a month down the track, there wasn’t any fresh vegetables going to the markets and certainly the – the Australian Defence Forces weren’t being provided – the provisions that were going to the defence forces weren’t there because the market gardeners were all in camps. So they re-released them and put them back on their farms so they could start growing vegetables again.


And you know, there was – there was – Italians were being very, very careful. Because anything they would do, could be seen by the broader community as being aggravating the situation. So they just really kept to themselves. Doctor Mannix at the time, Archbishop supported the Italian community, he could see that there was this behaviour that you know, community members and – were suffering for no reason. They were just genuine people who didn’t have strong connections to Italy and he – he came out in favour of the Italian community and supported them greatly as did the Catholic Church.


And there were quite a few Italian priests in Australia at the time and a couple of very strong priests in Melbourne who did a lot of work in the Italian community and to make sure that the Australian community accepted them. So, the war period was a very hard time for the Italian community.


End transcript